The Saint-Flour Planèze basalt plateau varies in altitude between 800 and 1,200 meters and is hemmed in on its eastern and western sides by two mountain ranges, the Monts du Cantal on the west and Margeride on the east. These mountain ranges form a barrier that protect the Saint-Flour Planèze golden lentil fields from dominant winds and keep the plateau relatively temperate, given its altitude. The lowest areas of the plateau are used for cultivating cereals, peas and lentils.
Documentation of the cultivation of the lentil in the area around Saint-Flour dates back to the late 18th century.
At the start of the 20th century, 1,500 hectares of terrain cultivated with lentils produced 1,200 tons of the crop. The lentils were consumed locally and also sold and exported abroad. The production reached its peak in 1949, with 2,000 hectares of cultivated land.
But at the start of the 1970s, lentil production slowly lost ground to extensive livestock farming in the region due to the cultivation of forage necessary for feeding the animals, and almost became extinct. The area of the Auvergne where the lentil is grown is famous for Salers and Cantal cheeses. As their production increased, fields of lentils (the demand for which was decreasing in France) were sacrificed for milk production.
The rediscovery and revival of the lentils began in 1997 through the work of producers who cultivated the fields around Saint-Flour. The scientific work of the selection of varieties for cultivation was accompanied by experimentation in the field by farmers trying out new agricultural techniques and by a group of tasters.
The memory of the Saint-Flour Golden Lentil remains vivid for the elderly population of the town, and for this reason the newly revived product has found a local market. The lentil producers today are primarily animal breeders whose livelihoods are threatened by the extremely difficult milk market; lentil production offer a means of diversification, an additional resource, as well as a source of local pride.
Thanks to its thin skin, this brown-streaked, yellow-green lentil cooks quickly and absorbs condiments and sauces well. It boasts a sweet flavor and a smooth texture that is never floury.
Locally, the lentils are eaten as an accompaniment to pork or sausages, or served cold with vinaigrette. There are also a few local recipes for puddings made with lentil flour.
The five producers in the Presidium collaborate with the Association of Saint-Flour Golden Lentil PGI (protected geographical indication) producers, and are also involved in the adoption of highly sustainable farming practices that exclude the use of chemicals.
The Presidium’s goals are to strengthen the producers’ network, connect producers with regional chefs interested in promoting the golden lentil, and encourage other golden lentil producers to adopt more sustainable practices.
Cantal province, Auvergne region
Henri Cairon, Seriers, Le Bourg, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gérard Cibiel, Cussac, Le Bourg, email@example.com
Serge Manenc, Alleuzet, Les Ternes
Serge Ramadier, Saint-Flour, 32 Rue du Collège, tél. +33 665536587 /+33 471605157, firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Ricard, Neuveglise, Cordesse, email@example.com