Allée Bleue Wine Estate hosts weekly Herb Farm Tours
Allée Bleue Wine Estate near Franschhoek, one of the Western Cape’s biggest herb producers, invites foodies, gardeners, families and anyone interested in how herbs are grown to take a tour of the farm under the guidance of the estate’s resident herb expert.
As from this month, Allée Bleue will host the unique, weekly tours every Friday, followed by a welcome cocktail and three-course, herb-inspired lunch.
While it is most widely known for its wines and fruit, the 145ha estate is ranked among the top three herb growers in the province. Allée Bleue’s herb production takes place in 28 hydroponic tunnels spread across 2.4ha and another 35 tunnels located on other farms in the district, from which one ton of herbs is harvested per week in season. It is a key supplier to major South African retailers including Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers, Fruit and Veg City and Spar, and plans to soon begin exporting its herbs too.
According to Allée Bleue general manager Wolfgang Leyrer, herb production is well-known for being fraught with challenges, but a decade of experience and an abundance of rich, fertile soils have empowered Allée Bleue to become a leader in the industry. These are the same soils that produce the estate’s famed wines and fruit.
“Where herbs are concerned, we have benefitted from greater consumer demand in recent years,” says Leyrer. “The trend towards healthier lifestyles combined with TV chefs promoting the use of fresh herbs in cooking has raised awareness too.”
The 1,5-hour herb tour will allow visitors to see first-hand how herbs are nurtured from seedling to full growth; and, how the best is coaxed from the plants through the use of fascinating, all-natural material such as “coco peat”, made from coconut husks.
Allée Bleue farms a range of herbs including Dill, Fennel, Sage, Tatsoi, Parsley, French and Garlic Spring Onions, Mint, Oregano, Watercress and Tarragon. Its biggest varieties are Basil, Coriander, Rocket, Thyme and Rosemary.
Each tour group will have herb production manager Lario Moolman as their guide. Moolman studied Agriculture and is among very few in South Africa with more than a decade of experience in herb farming.
“With herbs, the learning process never ends,” she says. “And even if you have years of experience, this is no guarantee of success as herbs are a living plants, impacted by constant changes in the environment and weather. Plus, we’re continuously looking for ways to improve what we do.”
After a walk through the herb tunnels, visitors will experience during lunch how fresh herbs can breathe life into a dish. The meal includes wine too.