The main occupation in the area is agriculture, with fruit growing predominant. Starting with strawberries from April onwards, fruit floods the local market stalls. Cherries are followed by apricots, peaches and melons, all grown locally, and then come figs, quinces, jojoba, almonds, kiwi fruit, apples and pears.
Locally grown vegetables are also plentiful, the season starting in March with both white and green varieties of asparagus sold cheaply from small-holdings and in the markets. Asparagus is followed by courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes (including the large, wrinkled coeur de boeuf) and beans. Mollans itself has a unique AOC for its own variety of haricot bean called the “Coco de Mollans”.
And, of course, the countryside all around is covered in vines since Mollans is in the heart of the AOC Côtes du Rhone region. The sight of a hillside covered in vines is often enhanced by rows of rose bushes along the edges. These are planted to give an early warning of mildew. If mildew is around, it will strike the rose bushes before the vines and thus obviates the need to constantly examine all the vines. The surrounding area is also the major producer of truffles in France, the black rather than the white variety, denigrated by some but highly prized locally.
Lavender is also a local crop, whole fields of it providing a sight for sore eyes in the surrounding countryside in July/August. Two types are grown: the more heavily scented but less prized “lavandin” and the more delicate “lavende”, whose flowers keep their colour when they are dried. The latter is supposed to grow best at a height of over 1000ft and can be seen in profusion on the hillsides behind Mollans. Lavender is sold in the local markets as bunches of dried, dried flowers alone, as oil or to add scent to soap or flavour to cooking.
Finally, the area around Mollans is the most northerly part of Europe in which olive trees thrive, in particular a hardy variety known as “la tanche”. It has a black, wrinkled fruit that is good both to eat and for its oil, which has the first ever AOC (Nyons) denomination granted to an olive oil. Groves of olive trees are to be found all around. The owners may take the olives that are not used for eating to the village mill to be made into oil. About 4-5 kgs of olives are required for a litre of oil. Alternatively, the olives may be crushed and made into tapenade. Any residue can be used to make soap or oil for lamps.’
This post is also available in: French