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Bon weekend from frosty France newsletter

This week we woke up to a light frost. Everything was sparkling – the grass, the hedges, leaves on trees, roofs and cars, perfect timing for the annual pumpkin contest that’s held in the village.

This is no slick affair with glitzy prizes. The event takes place in my neighbour Jean-Claude’s barn, where boards are laid out on anything that will hold them up and take the weight of some fairly enormous pumpkins. The French language distinguishes between different types of pumpkins and squashes, and even French people get confused by the different names – citrouille (round pumpkins), potiron (pumpkins with flat tops), and potimarron (pumpkins with pointed tops) – at least I think that’s how it works!

I have grown a selection this year which somehow have managed to avoid being trampled by 4 dogs and 8 cats running through the vegetable patch. And I have a contender in the potiron section – a big orange beast with a somewhat crusty skin.

The record in France is a 984kg whopper (just over a ton), the size of a small car (like a Twingo). Mine is the size of a small dog. But I am very proud of it – it’s the biggest pumpkin I’ve ever grown.

Now, I say I could be a contender, but Jean-Claude has held the title “biggest pumpkin in the Valleys” for 18 out of the 19 years I’ve had a home in France. He was usurped just once by a grower in a neighbouring village – that old saying about taking part being more important than winning is not something Jean-Claude agrees with. He loves to win. After that he upped his game, talks to his pumpkins, sings to them, feeds them with his secret ingredient fertiliser. Being a contender to me means being in the top 5 and I may well just pip some of my other neighbours pumpkins to the post. But in truth, I’m just happy to be a part of the pumpkin gang and join in the fun with my neighbours. We’ll drink a pumpkin liqueur – not a blow your socks off version, but a mellow, spicy drink made with pumpkin puree and vodka. We’ll eat sweet pumpkin pie and warm up with a delicious pumpkin soup. That makes us all winners as far as I’m concerned…

Bon weekend from a little village in the middle of nowhere, rural northern France, where nothing much happens, but life is never dull.


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Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream,  My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life and Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France all available as ebook, print & audio, on Amazon everywhere & all good bookshops online. Her new book How to be French – a celebration of the French lifestyle, is out in October 2023 – a look at the French way of life.

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