The violets of Tourrettes-sur-Loup

Discover in video the meeting with the Quentin family

The violet, a beautiful flower to bite into

The violet is a small, early flower that has its habitat in temperate zones. In the wild, it grows in vast colonies in the shaded corners of meadows and gardens or at the edge of forests. There are many varieties of violets; all are edible, but the most used is the "viola odorata" or Victoria. Its picking extends from November for the very first flowers, to April for the latest. The maximum flowering starts on January 10-15, and this until about March 20 (the climate is then too hot for these small fragile flowers). It is also because of this early flowering that violets have long been associated with lovers: the tradition was to offer a bouquet of violets to one's half on February 14, Valentine's Day. Today, this custom has almost disappeared and florists are no longer the majority among the customers of violet growers. The flowers are therefore picked largely for the purpose of being consumed, whether fresh on the dishes of chefs (in decoration of dishes or desserts, in salads...), or more commonly in confectionery: in the composition of violet sweets, the production of crystallized violet flowers (a well-known specialty of Toulouse, some of the violets of which come from Tourrettes, yes!), in syrup or in a flowery preparation such as jam...

Tourrettes violet

The violet that L'Épicurien uses comes from the hinterland of Nice, in Tourrettes-sur-Loup, the only place in France where it is the main crop. It is cultivated by Marcel Quentin, one of the three remaining producer families. The production of violets is indeed an endangered profession, which these families carry out despite:
  • difficult picking conditions, by hand and squatting (the pickers spend every day in the rows of violets to pick only the well-opened flowers)
  • low profitability, like any manual rather than mechanized know-how (the fields are difficult to access and the flowers are fragile, which makes it impossible to use machines)
  • foreign competition for part of the production

Focus on Quentin Production

Our exclusive producer, Marcel Quentin, welcomed us and his brother and two sisters to their fields of violets, under an early March morning sun, even though it was already very hot in the greenhouses...

What mode of production?

Violets are very sensitive to bad weather, rain, wind... Cultivation in greenhouses allows better control of irrigation conditions and ensures a peaceful climate for violets. Due to this, violets in the greenhouse grow faster than in the open air. They are grown in rows. They are watered daily, using an appropriate sprinkler irrigation system.

Violets are perennial, give several flowers per year and will bloom for 5-6 years, after which the field is plowed and left fallow for a year, leaving the land to rest. At the end of each season, the Quentin family lets the leaves grow and cut them. They will be used for perfumery. Then the rows are left as they are until the following season.

What destination for the production of the Quentin family?

The flowers intended for food consumption come from a variety specific to the family; they grow in Tourrettes. But the Quentin production also has another variety of violets in its fields, the rustic one, picked for its leaves which give off a more pronounced herbaceous smell, and intended for perfumery. These are grown in Tourrettes but also near Fréjus.

ID CARD / Quentin Production

  • since the end of the 1950s. Marcel's father, originally from Maubeuge, initiated production from 25kg of violet plants and had to set up the entire irrigation system, which was non-existent at the time. The operation is currently without a buyer.
  • 3 hectares of fields in total: 1ha under greenhouse and 2ha outdoors
  • 15 kg of flowers collected on average per day for 4 people in good conditions
  • 500 kg of violets harvested and sold on average per year (up to 800 kg)

    What is the outcome of this know-how at L'Épicurien?

    In order to enhance this product, which is tending to become scarce, L'Épicurien uses it in its preparation with Fleurs de Violettes . Fresh flowers are delicately infused in an aqueous and sweet preparation. For more authenticity, we do not add any coloring and leave a few petals in suspension in the preparation.
    The delicacy of this preparation pleasantly flavors a custard, whipped cream or kir. It can also be used to fill scones or a layer cake, to coat a cheesecake or a panna cotta...

    #let's savor together