If you’re making a salad this week or you enjoyed some rosemary roast lamb for lunch yesterday, chances are you were using produce from Allée Bleue‘s wonderful herb gardens without even realising it.
Best known as a wine farm just outside Franschhoek, Allée Bleue is actually home to multiple thriving businesses, adding fruit production, hospitality and, of course, herbs to its wine portfolio to make it a must-visit estate.
Producing somewhere between 1.5 and 2 tons of herbs weekly (yes, I said weekly), the farm supplies major retailers Shoprite and Pick n Pay, as well as selling under its own label at various outlets.
(By the end of the year they will be supplying another large local shopping franchise, though since the details are still technically under wraps, we can’t say anything except it could make a world of difference to your grocery shopping.)
Alleé Bleue’s herb production is really something else. A total of 23 different herbs – from parsley and coriander to curry leaves, lemongrass and microherbs – are grown under the watchful gaze of the lovely Lario Moolman.
She tends to her tunnels with a dedication and level of enthusiasm for herbs that is quite touching to behold. That passion is backed up by an intricate knowledge of each individual plant’s requirements and a spirit of innovation that promises we’ll see even more great things from this sector in future.
To share her passion for and intricate knowledge of herbs, Lario conducts tunnel tours on Friday mornings at 11 am. For only R185 a head you can spend a delightful hour or so in her world, learning the ropes of herb production, followed by a lovely three-course meal with wine pairing at the Allée Bleue Bistro.
The tour covers everything from the history of the herb tunnels, to the ideal medium for herb production and an introduction to hydroponics.
We haven’t heard much from Allée Bleue’s bistro in recent years, but chef Beau du Toit is primed to change all that. Having taken over in the kitchen, Beau is bringing innovative, fine dining back to the charming little eatery, working in conjunction with winemaker Van Zyl du Toit (no relation) to plate a meal of delicious, well-thought-out cuisine worthy of the estate it calls home.
As someone with a decidedly un-green thumb, even I found the herb tour fascinating, and immediately started mentally purchasing balcony boxes and bags of coir. Add excellent food and wine, and you have an experience that brings something unique and educational to a typical day’s tasting in the Winelands.
Where Intersection R45 and R310, Groot Drakenstein
When Fridays at 11 am (booking essential)
Cost R185 pp, including the herb tour and lunch with wine pairing
Contact +27 21 874 1021, www.alleebleue.co.za
Photography Jade Cooke