French Markets: What’s in Season?

by Ann Mah

Today’s post is republished with permission from the blog of Ann Mah, an author and journalist based in Paris. She has written for Conde Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune and many other publications. Publishers Weekly called her recently published first novel, Kitchen Chinese, ” a great start for a writer of much promise.”

At a recent dinner party, somewhere between the cheese course and dessert, that age old question arose again. 

Are there no seasons for fruits and vegetables anymore?

“When I was young, we didn’t have any green salad during the winter,” said the woman across from me, poking her fork disapprovingly at a leaf of mâche. “Only endive. For the whole winter.”

Granted, she was d’un certain âge, but even so, her youth was probably only 40 years ago. (Side note: if I’ve misjudged her age, I really hope she isn’t reading this right now.)

The rest of the table erupted into a diatribe against raspberries in January and artichokes in November. I kept quiet for fear of revealing my dirty secret: I really have no idea when different fruits and vegetables should appear.

Happily, it appears others share my cluelessness. Why else would Le Parisien print an article dedicated to fresh produce and its seasons? Thanks to their informative article, here’s a breakdown of what to look for:

April
New in season: rhubarb, blackberries, asparagus, chard, spinach, radishes, lettuces
Still in season: oranges, beets, carrots, celery, cabbage, endive, potatoes

May 
New in season: strawberries, eggplants, cucumbers, turnips, cauliflower  
Still in season: rhubarb, blackberries, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, cabbage, spinach, radishes, potatoes, lettuce

June 
New in season: apricots, cherries, currants, raspberries, melons, apples, tomatoes, courgettes, fennel, beans leeks, peas, peppers
Still in season: rhubarb, blackberries, asparagus, beets, carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, turnips, onions, potatoes, radishes

And the rest of the year…
Summer
Continue to enjoy strawberries, the last cherries and apricots. It’s also still the high season for nectarines, peaches, plums, and pears. Grapes arrive. Courgettes, tomatoes, melons, beans, peppers, broccoli, and all lettuces.

Fall 
Enjoy grapes until October. Also, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Most of the summer vegetables can be found until October.

Winter
Apples and pears are everywhere. Oranges and clementines arrive in November. We can cook cabbages, carrots, potatoes and leeks. Don’t forget endive.

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3 responses to “French Markets: What’s in Season?

  1. Where are these out of season veggies and fruits coming from I wonder?

    • Vendors are required to show the country of origin for all their fruits and vegetables. These can range from the exotic (Thailand and Peru for mangos, for example) to France’s European neighbors, particularly Spain.

  2. Advances in transportation and communications have rendered many long-standing habits obsolete, and among them lies the question of a season for fruits and vegetables.

    Rarely a day passes when I do not indulge my taste for a breakfast of corn flakes and blueberries, and, during the course of this last winter in Paris, I was never lacking for either.

    The corn flakes are, of course, available from almost every market, super of not.

    The blueberries are usually acquired from one of several vegetable markets in Rue Poncelet in the 17th.

    They come, most often, from Chile, sometimes from Morocco, and occasionally from Spain.

    The ones from Chile are the best, Spain the worst.

    Likewise, all winter long I never went without bananas, which came from such various places as Ecuador, Martinique, and Gabon.

    I’ve lived most of my life in relatively remote places, where the season continues to influence the availability of foodstuffs, but it’s clear to me that in Paris, and I suppose in many of the world’s great cities, apart from specific branded products, you can find whatever you want whenever you want it.

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