Herbalist Anaïs Kerhoas is the Joan of Arc of Plants in France
At first glance, she seems timid and frail. But listen to her talk and watch her movements for a few seconds, and it doesn’t take long to realize you’re in the presence of a tiny giant on the warpath.
It’s a battle she started in 2011 when this early-twenties city girl decided to forgo urban life and become a full-time farmer. No, not a weekend farmer. A real “hands-in-the-dirt” one. A professional farmer like they don’t make anymore. Her passion: herbs and plants.
So she left everything behind to claim a plot of land in an agricultural area of Brittany in France that time forgot. Her farmhouse barely had heat or electricity. Picture this:
It’s five o’clock in the morning and cold in her farmhouse where the only heat right now is from the gas stove heating up her second pot of coffee. Clad in her trademark torn-up jeans and heavy woolen coat, she’s ready to tend to her plants for another long day of picking, triaging and storing. She’ll spend the next ten hours passionately caring for her life’s work over acres of rich French soil.
Nowadays she finally has an internet connection. And after years of talented toil and hardship, her dried plants and herbs are flying off the shelves so fast she can hardly keep up.
Her long struggle and success story created such a stir in France that she became the subject of a TV documentary and quickly attracted the attention of renowned Guide Michelin starred Chef Olivier Rollinger - himself a grand master of spice gastronomy - and a frequent customer of hers for his restaurants. We went to visit Anaïs several days ago at her secluded farm in rural France. And now, she’s an exclusive La Maison Hubert partner.
Herbalist Anaïs Kerhoas doesn’t even like that title. “I’m just a simple farm girl” she says. She grows about fifty different kinds of plants. And knows more about each species than probably anyone left around in France. Some of them have medicinal properties going back centuries, but all of them are naturally healthy and succulent to boot especially when used in gourmet dishes. In an age of mass production and artificial foods, that’s a breath of fresh air.
Thin as a rail but tough as a nail, Anaïs is the Joan of Arc of plants and herbs. But it’s a long uphill battle she’s been waging. And life alone in the middle of nowhere with few if any modern amenities is not for the faint of heart or mind. In fact, an early male “advisor” once told her:
“You’re a chick, you’re young, you’re from the city and what’s more, you’re pretty. You have no business being here. Why don’t you go make jam or something.”
With a smirk she’ll tell you:
“I’ve never made jam in my life, and I never will. Just to annoy that idiot!”.
It’s true that in the rough and tumble macho world of farming, she sticks out as a UFO. But this tiny girl has a handshake like a vise. And her commercial success speaks for itself.
She doesn’t socialize much except when selling her products at local markets. Her favorite time is spent in the fields where she painstakingly nurtures her seedlings nine months out of the year. All by hand. Running from field to field. It’s where she’s most happy and fulfilled: outdoors with both hands in the dirt, growing artisanal food for her customers one plant at a time.
“I always think about my clients when I’m out there farming. My main objective is to please and make them happy. It’s a labor of love. It took me a long time to get initial feedback, but after the first raving reviews, as the demand kept growing, I knew I was onto something. It gave me the confidence to go on.”
When the time comes, she collects her fragile bounty, packs it in large carefully-labelled paper bags, and stores it in dry-out shacks. From there, she then ships on-demand to her loyal customers all over Europe.
When we heard about Anaïs, we just knew we had to meet her. And lucky we did. Because very soon, she’ll be growing and shipping custom-made herbs and plants for La Maison Hubert so we can share them only with you. These exclusive La Maison Hubert “special edition” Anaïs herbs will never be made available to the general public.
And normally-shy Anaïs must have enjoyed our visit. Because as a bonus, she has also agreed to appear in person at our Carpe Diem events this coming March and April in Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland with gastronomy heavyweights Chefs Jacques Pourcel and Pascal Favre d'Anne!
She’ll figure prominently among the cast of chefs and other culinary artists (farmers, producers, growers) behind the food who will host, welcome, and cook for our small group of privileged guests during these once-in-a-lifetime gourmet culinary events.
So instead of reading about Anaïs or seeing her on video, you’ll be right there by her side catching a whiff of her exuberant strength and passion. It’s not every day you can meet a real-life Joan of Arc. And that’s a moment you’ll never forget. Brought to you by La Maison Hubert, of course!