Fruit and vegetables in France

Sweet-smelling melons, long French beans, punnets of strawberries and crates of apricots, a trip to the local ‘maraîcher’ is always a delight. In France, many market gardeners have stands along the roadside in summer, but there are many others, tucked away down country lanes, that only the locals know.

In general, these more permanent stalls are open for several months of the year. You can buy ‘les produits maraîchers’, the market gardener’s local produce as the seasons unfold. Query as to when there will be cherries on sale as the spring advances and you will be told when they will be ripe. Or, you can ask for a couple of crates of apricots to be put aside for that planned jam-making session. There will be laughter and joking and a bunch of parsley added to your shopping basket. ‘Passez une bonne journée !’ you will hear as you leave and of course, ‘À bientôt !’

If you enjoy the hustle and bustle and colours of a French market, (and who doesn’t?) you can also buy your fruit and vegetables on market day. Markets are year-round events, but summer markets are particularly lively and a good opportunity to catch up on the local gossip too.

Did you know that inspectors regularly check the products on market stalls to make sure that the stallholder’s description is accurate? The melons are labelled as coming from Cavaillon? The inspectors are on the lookout for giveaway signs, such as the marks on discarded crates to ensure that that is true. The French are very proud of the specialities of their different ‘terroirs’ and care about protecting the reputation and quality of regional products.

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Don’t rush away once you’ve finished your shopping. The cafés around the markets are there for you to prolong the pleasure. A leisurely moment spent in a pavement café, enjoying ‘un express’ or ‘un aperitif’ while watching the comings and goings of the market, is all part of the experience. It would be difficult to count the number of establishments called ‘Le café du marché’ in France. It’s a name that evokes a whole way of life.

Afterwards, when you take your fresh fruit and vegetables home, you can transform them into a tasty French dish: ‘une ratatouille’, ‘des poivrons farcis’ or ‘un clafoutis aux cerises’ perhaps. As the French say familiarly, ‘y a plus qu’à.’. All that remains is to get on and do it!

For more insights into French food and French markets, try ‘Food and French’ and ‘Eating and shopping in France’.

Pam Bourgeois

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