In the top 5 of my favorite regional specialties, reigns the king of summer; I named Haut-Poitou melon. Proud of its recognition by the IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) label, I really wanted to know more, especially since I learned that a third of the farms are located in Grand Châtellerault.  
What could be better than a visit to a producer, to understand what makes this local treasure so successful!
Follow me…

Tourism Grand Chatellerault

Welcome to the “Heart of Vienne” melons

A producer, yes, but not just any producer, since he is the new president of the Académie des Maîtres du Haut-Poitou. Associated with Alexandre Hénault, Tony Thibault is at the head of SCEA Les Noisetiers in Thuré. The two farmers started as employees and colleagues, on this farm which has been growing melons since the end of the 90s.

In July 2009, the two men took over the farm. Today, they cultivate 60 hectares of melon in conventional agriculture, 7 hectares of organic melon, 2 hectares of organic squash and 1 hectare of organic watermelon.

Very dynamic, the duo collects guarantees of quality and respect for the environment. Thus, in addition to the AB label and the Haut-Poitou IGP, their production is stamped Bee Friendly (friends of bees), ZRP (Zero Pesticide Residue), Agroecology and GLOBALG.AP (traceability and food safety standards).

Alexandre Hénault on the left, Tony Thibault on the right

Tourism Grand Chatellerault

Focus on the “Melon du Haut-Poitou” label

At Les Noisetiers, Alexandre and Tony introduce me to Camille Raimbault, the host and Quality Manager of the Haut-Poitou Melon Producers' Union. Passionately, the young woman describes to me the characteristics of this variety.

"We always find a strong orange color, a very present and developed smell and aromas in the mouth, a flesh that is both firm and melting and a sugar level above 12 degrees Brix."

The specifications to be respected by members impress me. Every summer Thursday, as part of Quality controls, the Haut-Poitou Masters Academy meets to blind taste different varieties. For one of them to be IGPable, it must be validated two years in a row. These professionals are constantly engaged in a search for new tastes. 

From the ground to the plate

Before showing me around the farm, Alexandre and Tony explain to me the different stages of growing yellow Charentais melon. Every week from the beginning of March to the beginning of June, it is the sowing period, alongside work in the fields. At the beginning of April, weekly plantings begin until the end of June.

« The longer and warmer the days, the shorter the cultivation times. », specifies Alexandre. In June comes the time for uncovering and openings in the tunnels. to create a balance between leaves and roots ". From the end of June to the end of September, the fruit matures.

Tourism Grand Chatellerault

Tony offers to accompany him to a plot in Saint-Gervais-les-Trois-Clochers, where seasonal workers are picking by hand, in the morning dew for longer storage. The work is methodical, row by row, alongside the tractor which receives the nuggets in bins. The vitamin products will quickly reach the calibration station.

In high season, up to 80 people are busy in the fields and in the warehouse.
On the way, Tony proudly shows me the lands where organic melons flourish. We are at the foot of Château de la Plante : the view of the monument is breathtaking!

Back in Thuré, Alexandre takes over to enlighten me on conditioning.

Freshly picked, the melons are first brushed in a machine. If it rained, the fruits are washed and dried. Then an employee takes care of a crucial step: sorting. Damaged parts are discarded while those with appearance defects will be sold as second choice. The others continue their journey on the chain where a clever electronic scale allows the melons to be sorted by size. Another employee manages the labeling.

To find out more, I invite you to watch videos, from seedling to distribution, posted online by the union.

Then, the king of summer goes to distributors throughout France thanks to Priory of the Dive, or direct sale. Locally, you can buy melons from Noisetiers at the PetitSigne cheese shop in Oyré, at the farm store in Antoigné (La Fouchardière) and in Châtellerault in various establishments.

And of course at the Thuré farm store. On site, you have the choice between all the varieties grown. Concerning the “Haut-Poitou Premium”, Camille tells me that the end of summer is the best time to enjoy it at its peak!  

In the store, melons rub shoulders with watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, dairy products Pré Joly, Pineau, grape juice, potatoes… Without forgetting pumpkins and butternuts in September.
I leave with my arms full of food, much appreciated by the rest of the family that evening!

Tourism Grand Chatellerault

Alexandre Hénault and Tony Thibault


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