Tapenade, the essential part of Provençal cuisine

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Tapenade et toasts

When we talk about Provence, first the blue sky appears above the lavender fields, then olive oil and the small perched villages. But if we specify “gastronomy” of Provence, the caviar of the land of the sun will make us drool. Of course weare talking of the tapenade!

This smart blend of capers, garlic, anchovies, olive oil, but above all (and mainly) olives is an essential part of any aperitif worthy of the name in the Alpes de Haute-Provence.

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A little history….

Before being refined by the greatest French chefs such as Alain Ducasse, the tapenade recipe has gone through many centuries of popular cuisine. The first capers from Crete were imported into Provence by the Phocaeans in the 6th century BC. The trees were then called “tapenei” and its floral buds “tapeno”, now commonly known as “capers”. From these buds was born the first “tapeno” paste. With garlic added, flavored with herbs from the scrubland and preserved in olive oil.

This recipe became the basic condiment of Provençal cuisine for many centuries. It was only in 1880 that Mr Meynier, chef of the restaurant “La Maison Dorée” in Marseille, added new elements. Black olives, capers and pickled tuna to garnish halves with boiled eggs and called this creation “tapenade”. The proportions of this recipe have gradually evolved. The tuna has finally been eliminated, to give what everyone knows as THE Provençal recipe.

Freshly crushed tapenade in a mortar

Where to find the best Tapenades?

Apart from the sunny terraces of the restaurants of Provence where a small bowl of tapenade is often served as an appetizer, there are some good addresses for lovers of this delicious product.

First of all, the Provençal markets are an almost unbeatable opportunity to buy authentic tapenade directly from the producer. Then, taste it in the shade of a few trees or in the coolness of the edge of a fountain. The markets of Gréoux-les-Bains, on Tuesday, and Valensole and Aups on Wednesday, have acquired a solid reputation, as they are very lively and well provided with exhibitors. But it is above all thanks to the presence of many local producers who are very attached to the quality of their products that you will benefit from your visits to the markets.


Where to meet tapenade producers?

An excellent way to find tapenades worthy of the recipes of a Provençal grandmother and especially to learn more about this tasty dish and its production, is to meet the producers on their farms. Feel free to explore our Verdon Secret website to discover other craftsmen from Provence who will welcome you with pleasure. Here are some addresses not to be missed….

In the heart of the Verdon Regional Park, the Maison du Lavandin welcomes you to Sainte-Croix du Verdon. First of all, there is a shop that offers all the artisanal products of this farm. You could findlavender essential oil, virgin olive oil, honey and of course tapenade! But the Maison du Lavandin also offers, for groups and on a reservation, a guided tour of the fields and the distillery, as well as a tasting of the truffles grown on site!

Tapenade at the market

Another possibility to access the best tapenades while supporting local production is to visit the Maison de Pays du Verdon in Allemagne-en-Provence. Many farmers, artists and craftsmen from the Verdon gathered there to showcase the cultural richness of their region. Several generations of the Bondil family offer you their famous green olive tapenade!

Finally, Couleurs Paysannes is a cooperative of craftsmen from the Alpes de Haute-Provence, which, thanks to its dazzling success, now has about sixty producers and three stores: one in Manosque, one in Valensole and one in Venelles. You can find the tapenade of Jean-Luc and Gilles. It’s the third generation of a line of arborists and producers in Volx. Their orchard, which overlooks the Durance valley, offers a prime location for creating an authentic high quality tapenade!

 

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