Mâche nantaise (Nantes lamb's lettuce)
IGP Mâche nantaise (lamb’s lettuce or corn salad) is a small, rapidly-growing plant of the valerian family, of the genus Valerianella and the species olitoria, with long, sessile spoon-shaped leaves springing direct from the root, quite deeply veined, forking in pairs superposed at right angles to form a fairly tight rosette. Lamb’s lettuce is not suitable for marketing straight from the ground, and must undergo a series of processing operations to transform it into a finished product with the characteristics of mâche nantaise: in large or small trays, or ready for use.
Geographical area: Department of Loire-Atlantique (except 13 cantons in the north-east of the department), Department of Vendée: eight cantons (including six bordering on Loire-Atlantique), and Department of Maine-et-Loire: two cantons (both bordering on Loire-Atlantique).
Proof of origin: The proof of the origin of the product is provided by a system of registration and stock accounting at key stages in the production process: parcel, sowing, growing, harvesting, washing, storage, packaging. This system enables the exact origin of the product to be identified (including the parcel), and traces the whole process up to the finished product.
Method of production: The crop is grown in beds; top dressing of sand; plastic cover; preliminary approval of the product before harvesting in accordance with a set of criteria taking account of physical defects of the product; controlled harvesting conditions (temperature and timing); approval before washing; systematic washing; suitable storage conditions; approval of finished product; close control of lag between harvesting and placing in consumer unit.
Link: There are a number of factors justifying the product’s link with its geographical origin:
—Old-established recognised know-how reflected in specific production and processing techniques uniformly used throughout the Nantes region
—Growing in beds, which makes year-round sowing and harvesting possible without damage to the soil
—Traditional use of river sand (from the Loire and its estuary) the smoothness and size of the grains being particularly favourable to plant growth while guarding against disease
—Growing under unheated shelters (in particular, small plastic tunnels, developed from the traditional ‘nantais frame’), contributing to product protection at all times of year
—Processing tools developed in the region to be perfectly suited to the specific characteristics of m|che nantaise, to enhance product quality, in particular through very efficient removal of sand and dirt, and product presentation that meets the needs of distributors and consumers
—Common quality criteria for approval specific to the region
—Temperate maritime climate perfectly adapted to the production of mâche throughout the region, enabling optimum specific quality to be obtained all year round (as measured by the quality criteria developed and applied in the Nantes region)
—A well-established reputation based on the historical background to market gardening around Nantes, where the plant was first grown in the early 19th century; a present-day reputation strengthened by a major collective promotion campaign over the past 15 years
—Considerable economic importance, with mâche nantaise being the region’s major plant product in terms of turnover, and having a predominant role in Europe.
Reference: The European Commission