A Different Kind of Cultivation
I work both in Vars (2,100 meters altitude) and in Châteauroux-les-Alpes (1,200 meters altitude). I used to do my sowing in Châteauroux, but now I do everything in Vars.
Though the seeds spend the winter at my house, my génépi plants live their whole life at high altitude where they grow in the most natural may and synthetize their active principles from the soil and the sun (which shines 300 days a year in here!).
After years of trial-and-error, I selected a plot in Vars (Hautes-Alpes), near the Coulette pass, for my génépi cultivation. It is ideally oriented (south-facing) and at an altitude of 2,100 meters. This mountain pasture seemed perfect for my needs. Today, I can say I wasn't wrong!
Since 2008, I tap directly into the Chagnon mountain stream (700 meters from my plot) for spraying.
But watering needs to be sparse. Too much water can harm the plants and favor diseases. In fact, génépi only needs water right after the planting or during long drought periods. A well-drained soil maintains an ideal hydrometric level.
Sowing is done mid-May on a seedbed. I use seeds collected from a few plants I selected in the summer.
The next spring, we transplant them in new beds. Those will last for 3 to 4 years. Each year, many plants disappear. Obviously, the yield plummets.
The beds are turned back into pasture for 6 to 10 years. This allows for excellent soil regeneration.
By the way: weeding is done by hand. I use only 100% organic fertilizer and I use it carefully: its purpose is to maintain good soil fertility, not to "fatten" the plants.
Finally, harvest is in early July. We do it with a pocket knife. We must be quick: flowers mature very rapidly.
After a good morning's harvest, I take my crates home in Châteauroux-le-Alpes. I weigh each crate and then lay my génépi on a rack in my homemade drying room.
Drying will take up to two weeks. Génépi loses nearly two thirds of its weight in the process. Once it's dry, everything is stored in cardboard boxes. I pick what I need for my sachets as we go along.