Picking cauliflower at dawn, Caps et Marais d'Opale Regional Nature Park, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France
Twelve centuries of history, 3,700 hectares, and 700 km of waterways of which 170 are navigable, shape the unique character of the Audomarois marshlands, a gem of Caps and Marais d’Opale Regional Natural Park. Shaped by humans, France’s last inhabited cultivated marshlands are home to remarkable natural areas and to the cultivation of traditional vegetables such as summer cauliflower.
© Philippe Hudelle
The gem of the Caps and Marais d’Opale Regional Parks, the Audomarois pond is first the story of the fragile balance humans have struck with their environment. When, in the 19th century, the Saint-Bertin monks established themselves in the region, which later formed Saint-Omer, the first villagers understood that they would first have to live with the marshlands before they could hope to grow vegetables for food, prairies for their cattle, and to extract peat for heating. The Audomarois marshland forms 3,726 hectares of land and water, 700 km of waterways, and the hundreds of animal and plant species which rely on them. Over the centuries, from generation to generation, local vegetable growers have developed varieties that only thrive in the Audomarois marshlands and are perfectly adapted to this specific wetland. 50 different vegetables are grown here, such as the famous Saint-Omer cauliflower. Some varieties will always carry the names of the vegetable growers who created them: Baudens, Bertheloot, Houcke, Delobel, or Martinet. The Audomarois marshlands are now France’s last inhabited cultivated marshlands.