Shopping for Local Produce in Paris

Shopping in Paris, especially for food-lovers, can be an exhilarating experience. There’s lovely outdoor markets just about every day of the week, bountiful with fresh produce. For those who like to support local farmers and agriculture, one often needs to look past the displays of fruits and vegetables heaped on the tables to see where they are from (EU regulations require sellers to display that information prominently.) And folks are often surprised to learn that quite a bit of the produce is from elsewhere, whether in France or outside of the country, or continent.

I asked my friend Phyllis Flick, who writes about eating around Paris on her blog My Paris Notebook, where she offers shopping tips and les bonnes adresses, highlighting places in Paris where one can find local produce and restaurants where young chefs are serving the local harvest.

Because she is so good about sleuthing out these places and resources, I am happy to welcome this guest post by Phyllis on Shopping for Local Produce in Paris. -David


Why buy local?
I try to buy locally as much as possible. For one I want to support independent farmers and avoid big agriculture, but it’s mostly a question of taste. Since it doesn’t have to travel far, local produce is fresher and more likely to have been picked when ripe – which means more flavor and more nutrients. By the time industrially grown produce reaches the supermarket it’s likely to have traveled many miles and sat in distribution centers, meaning it’s no longer very fresh. Vegetables rapidly lose their nutrients once picked—spinach looses 75% of its vitamin C within days of being harvested—so if you’re not buying local, you may be better off buying frozen vegetables.

Local produce is also less likely to have been chemically treated in order to withstand long travel times. In addition, a recent study found that fruits and vegetables coming from outside of France had alarming traces of pesticides, some of which are banned in France, so buying fruits and vegetables from countries with lower environmental standards may expose you dangerous pesticides.

So now that you know why it’s better to buy local produce, here’s are some resources and marketing tips on where to find it in Paris:

At the Market

Outdoor markets in Paris are not farmers markets, which means that shopping at your weekly market doesn’t guarantee that your produce even comes from France. You’ll have to read the labels to know what’s local and what’s not. Fortunately, every product sold in France must be labelled according to its origin, so you’ll know if the apples you want are from the Loire Valley, Spain, or even China, if you take the time to look.

If you want to buy direct from the source, look for the words “producteur-maraîcher“. You’ll also want to look for someone who only has a small selection of seasonal produce. If it’s winter and you see tomatoes and strawberries, it’s not local.

But even if a vegetable seller buys their goods from Rungis, the immense wholesale market outside Paris where most food in Paris is bought and sold, it could have very well come from their “producer pavilion” where the area’s producers gather to sell to restaurateurs and retailers who then resell their products in Paris. You’ll know if something is local if it’s marked “Ile de France” or displays the name or number of one of the departments in Île-de-France (75, 77, 78, 91, 93, 94, 95). For local organic vegetables head to the Marché Biologique on Saturdays at Batignolles (Métro: Rome) or the Marché Biologique on Sundays at Raspail (Métro: Rennes, or Sèvres-Babylon). But again, you need to look at the labels. Buying organic strawberries shipped from Chile seems to be missing the point.

Shops and Supermarkets

Biocoop

Of all the natural food shops in Paris, Biocoop is my favorite. What began in the 1970s as a co-operative for buying organic foods has grown into a chain of more than 300 independently owned stores, 11 of which are in Paris. Their mission statement says that they favor local, seasonal produce and each store works directly with local producers. At Biocoop you wont find avocados from South Africa or Kiwis from New Zealand.

One of the newest and largest Biocoop stores is Le Retour à La Terre at 1, rue Le Goff in the 5th (with its sister store at 114, avenue Phillipe-Auguste, 11th). It’s a beautiful store and the closest thing Paris has to Whole Foods with breads, pastries, a cheese and charcuterie counter, freshly prepared foods, local vegetables (including some heirloom vegetables), honey, a large selection of bulk items, and a health and beauty section. Click here to find the biocoop closest to you

Maison POS

If I lived in the neighborhood, this is where I would shop. Maison POS (90 rue de Charonne, 11th), which stands for Produits Objectivement Sérieux (Objectively Serious Products) is a small storefront offering local produce and artisanal products. Everything in the store is of exceptional quality, is either organic or non-treated, and comes directly from the producer. They carry seasonal fruits and vegetables along with a small selection of charcuterie, cheese, raw milk butter, and other dairy products.

Community Supported Agriculture

AMAP or CSA

If you don’t like to shop, you can join an AMAP (Association pour le Maintien de l’Agriculture Paysanne), the French equivalent of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) whose mission is to support family farmers struggling to compete with industrial farming. An AMAP is a community group who enters into a yearly, or half-yearly, contract to buy weekly from a local farmer. You sign up for the year (or half-year) and pick up your basket of freshly picked vegetables (some offer others goods like eggs, cheese, meat, etc) once a week at specific time and location. You get the freshest of local produce and the farmer is guaranteed a certain number of sales. The downside being you don’t get to choose and need to commit for at least one season. To find an AMAP in your neighborhood check out the AMAP network website.

If you don’t want to commit to a whole season there are several companies which allow you to order on a weekly basis including:

Local Bio Bag: Delivers ultra fresh organic vegetables grown in the Île-de-France, picked either the day or day before delivery.

Panier Bio Cergy

Tous Primeurs: Allows you to choose between 4 different producers including Joël Thiebault, who supplies some of Paris’s top tables.

Les Paniers du Val du Loire

Mon Panier Bio: This is a great resource for finding produce baskets in France as it aggregates most, if not all of them, by region.

La Ruche Qui Dit Oui: La Ruche Qui Dit Oui (“The Hive Who Says Yes”, in English), is a terrific online tool which brings together local farmers and consumers looking to buy closer to home. The idea is a cross between online shopping and an AMAP, but unlike an AMAP, you buy what you want, when you want, rather than adhere for an entire season.

It works like this – Someone starts a Ruche in their community, neighbors and local producers join, and then once every week or fortnight there’s an online sale. The producer sets a minimum sale amount and if they don’t reach the minimum, they don’t deliver and that item is deleted from your cart. A few days later you go to the designated delivery spot with your printed shopping list to pick up your goods. There are currently three Ruches open in Paris (the Ruche in the 10th has become so successful that it’s not taking new members for the moment) but more are on the way.

Buying Direct From the Farm: If you are looking to buy direct from the farm, then CERVIA (Le Centre Régional de Valorisation et d’Innovation Agricole et Alimentaire de Paris-Île-de-France), which promotes agriculture in the Île-de-France, is a good resource. Their website has an interactive map displaying farms that sell direct to consumers along with shops that sell local products. The map will also show you where to find a “cueillette”, a pick-your-own” produce farm, and explains the different products produced in the Île-de-France.

Decouverte de la Ferme IDF: Another good website listing farms you can visit in Île-de-France.

Annuaire Agence Bio: This is a great national website where you can search by-product. If you’re looking to find a farmer who will sell you organic milk or eggs, just put in your criteria and region and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Urban Farming: Grow it Yourself

You can’t get more local than growing your own vegetables. Here are a few resources to help you cultivate a green thumb in Paris:

Community Gardens: If you don’t have a garden, you can join a community garden, or jardin partagé, which exist in nearly every arrondissement in Paris. These are community spaces, often supported by the city of Paris, where you can have your own, albeit very small, patch of land. Unfortunately as space is limited, the waiting list can be long. But you can still join and enjoy the community aspect while waiting to have your own plot. Click here for the Mairie de Paris’s list of all community gardens in Paris.

Jardinons Ensemble: Resources for urban gardening and a list of community gardens in Ile de France.

Plantez Chez Nous: This website pairs would-be gardeners without any land with those who have the space but not the time or desire to get their hands dirty. Landowners and gardeners then share the harvest, so it’s a win-win situation for all.

Au Petit Potager: Similar to Plantez Chez Nous with classified ads for sharing garden space, tools and even your harvest if you find yourself with more tomatoes than you know what to do with.

Ferme de Saint Marthe: A comprehensive website where you’ll find everything you need for gardening. They have an impressive selection of seeds, with nearly 500 different types of vegetables, including 85 varieties of tomatoes.

Alsa Garden: This online boutique offers rare, medicinal, heirloom and “forgotten” vegetables, herbs and plants, which can be shipped anywhere in the world.

Urban Gardener: A Brooklyn Native teaches apartment dwellers the basics of starting a vegetable garden with little to no space.



Visit Phyllis at her blog My Paris Notebook and you can follow her on Twitter. All text and photos in this post are courtesy of Phyllis Flick.)




Related Posts and Links

Community Supported Agriculture in Paris

Coulommiers

Les Tomates

Brie de Meaux

Visit to a Paris Market (Video)

Marché des Producteurs

Paris Paysanne

46 comments

  • “To find an AMAP in your neighborhood check out the AMAP network website.”

    David,
    The AMAP link is broken…

    Fixed! Thanks… – dl

  • Great post, makes me want to head out and buy some fresh produce. Just wish I could find a comprehensive guide like this for down here in the south. Sounds like things are moving along with the apartment, that’s great. Just had our own run in with France Telecom this past week so I feel your pain. Always wonder how the French would feel about our customer service motto in America where the ‘customer is always right’. Although I have run into my fair share of bad service in the states, it seems like bad service is a dime a dozen here ( or at least for me). Bonne journée!!

  • That biocoop in the 5th is my local fav too! I am a hard core regular. Did you know they offer student discounts?! Yes. It rocks. It has been absolutely perfect for me while on exchange. Thank for for this post! I love finding new places to shop consciously :-)

  • Phyllis, what a thorough survey for Paris locovores, makes me want to get back there to visit toute de suite. Mille mercis. Love that community garden photo too, the scarecrow with the shapely carrot legs.

  • I don’t live in Paris, but I most of the general concepts about local food, markets etc. applies to Italy too so it was very informative and interesting.

  • What a nice guest post! And a new wonderful blog! Thank you very much.

    I am a grower of specialty fresh produce here in the Philippines, so this information is very useful for me.So many ideas. And so much beautiful produce.

  • I’m lucky to be a member of the Ruche qui dit oui (which I would translate by “The hive “which” says yes”) in the 10th arrondissement, and so far I’ve been very pleased with everything I bought (except some “biodynamic apples” which were worst than the regular apples and 3 times as expensiive…).

    I also recently discovered a new chain of organic stores called “Bio c’Bon” (“Organic’s Good”). They do a sort of amap themselves, selling a huge paperbag of fruits and vegetables for 10€, with seasonal produce. I’m not quite sure if it’s local though, I will ask them next time (but I’m pretty sure it is).

    I will check out all the links in the article, thanks !

  • Great guest post. When I stayed in Paris two summers ago, I loved the markets but also found it strange that the produce was largely not local. David has pointed this out in the past and I found his notes helpful but this is really great. Since you posted the Urban Gardener in Brooklyn, I’d like to mention another urban gardening site (disclaimer: when I was in Chicago, I contributed to this blog): http://www.greenroofgrowers.blogspot.com. We had zero land to plant food so we went to the roofs and used sub-irrigated planters. I actually toyed with the idea of using them while in Paris that summer since I really missed the garden picked produce (especially tomatoes). Anyway – great resources here. Good job…

    • I used to subscribe to a CSA-style bag of produce from the Île-de-France (the region where Paris is located) but almost all of the time it was things like cabbage, lettuce, potatoes, and carrots. And while I know there’s not a huge diversity of produce (especially fruit) grown in the area surrounding Paris, I missed having things like greens, spring onions…and things like asparagus in the spring, and strawberries in the summer.

      I plan to explore a home composter just after my next move. I did that in San Francisco, since I generate a lot of scraps, and I hope that sometime in the future the city of Paris considers implementing something to compost all the vegetable and fruit debris left over after all the food markets, since there’s so much tossed away – and it’s really a shame to see it all thrown away.

  • What a great post. I’m lucky enough to live close to an organic farm with a farmshop where I shop at least once a week and get about half of my food – eggs, seasonal fruit and veg, bread and more. There’s a large berry farm even closer, so in summer I drive from one farm to the other. For me, grocery shopping is never a chore – it is fun, and there is real satisfaction in bringing home such high quality food. It is definitely worth doing some research and finding your nearest farmshop or farmer’s market!

  • I imagine going to the fresh produce markets in Europe are quite the sensory experience. Fun post! I’m sure many people can learn a lot from you back in the U.S. in the way of buying local and being more economically conscious :) Hope the remodel is still going well!

  • I’m so lucky to have a producteur in my local market every sunday, litterally at my door. Great post.

  • So informative, thanks Phyllis!

  • How charming and informative! Makes me want to move to Paris that much more :-)

  • That kohlrabi has me licking my chops, wow, nice! Thanks for this round up, Phyllis.

  • Nice post, but what we really want is the blow by blow move-in, getting comfy, decorating and redecorating stories of your new apartment….

  • This is a fabulous post and full of ripe resources! I followed Phyllis lead and joined La Ruche Qui Dit Oui a few months back. Unfortunately my local Ruche shut down as they couldn’t find a manager. :( I have always wondered about community gardens and was unaware that they existed inside Paris. I am going to check out the link – thank you! We get a veggie delivery from a company called Le Campanier & I highly recommend them. The prices are great and the array of vegetables each week is outstanding.

  • Sugar Daze/Cat: A friend of mine has a community garden plot. It’s very (very) small, but quite charming. I was going to investigate joining another CSA, but I do like shopping at the outdoor markets, where I try to scope out and patronize the vegetable and produce sellers who are producteurs – and Biocoop is a pretty good store as well.

    Jane: I really like buying produce from the growers and like you said, it’s really a pleasure shopping from them and buying things directly from the people who grew them. And getting to know them, since they can tell you more about the fruits and vegetables that you’re getting.

  • David, I love reading your blog and getting your newsletters, so much great information!! Now, can anyone help me with a question about buying fresh milk!!? Maybe the Biocoop? My husband has been transferred to Paris from the U.S. I’m moving over with him in July. In the meantime he is working both in Paris and here in the U.S. He recently rented an apartment in the 5th. He tells me he can’t find “real” milk anywhere, only the UHT stuff, YUK!! If anyone familiar with this could point him in the right direction, I would be extremely grateful!! BTW I can’t wait to move there!

  • Laurie: Fresh milk is available in virtually every supermarket in France. Usually there is a store brand as well as a brand like Candia. So one doesn’t have to drink or use sterilized milk, which is pretty awful stuff. Natural food stores like Biocoop sell fresh milk as well, although some brands can be rather viscious (I think they might not be homogenized).

  • Thanks David! I guess he just needs to look a little harder!

  • David, I was wondering if you’re moving far enough that you’ll have to seek out new shopping locations. Hope the move is going well. Can’t wait to see pix of the finished kitchen.

  • I have kohlrabi growing now. Plus rutabagas. But I have no idea how to use it in a dish. David, or fellow readers, any ideas for a simple dish please? Thanks!

  • I had the pleasure of shopping at Maison POS a couple of weeks ago when we were in Paris. The butter I bought was out of this world and we used it to saute the cabbage, baby potatoes and carrots that we purchased at the shop. The carrots tasted like the ones from my childhood, one of our favourite meals in Paris.

  • Thank you for writing this! When I was given rotten shallots by a vendor at my local market, I was ready to go back to Monoprix…now I can check out some of these places!

    • One of the reasons to shop with the same vendors in France, is that once they get to know you, they will treat you very well and make sure you get the best. If someone gives you something that is bad or rotten, take it out of the sack and return and hand it back to them, asking for a replacement. (Unless it’s something that was very inexpensive or bought at a discount.)

      People are generally proud of what they offer, and be sure to be polite, but firm. At first they may balk, but they will respect you better and next time – if you choose to shop with them again – you shouldn’t get any rotten shallots.

  • Many thanks for posting this David and Phyllis – very useful. We live in the country and have access to local producers of vegetables, poultry, meat, eggs, bio oils, bio flour, bio wine etc but it has all been by word of mouth and a bit hit and miss, in that French way, to search out (the producteurs are sick/on holiday/at lunch/or have moved on). Good to see there are networks being organised and we might be able to find some new places more easily.
    Also, the article about how many restaurants actually cook their own food from scratch was fascinating and food for thought.

  • This is a treat, in more ways than one. I love all the links, even if I’m not fluent in my grandmother’s native tongue. ;)

    Spring is in full bloom here in north Texas. I was digging in the dirt just this afternoon, transplanting and planting. Hopefully we’ve put the drought behind us.

  • Labelling has been on my radar quite a bit lately. It’s really hard to believe that in some places, something one would consider a fundamental right to know where one’s food is coming from is not necessarily that. We should all have a right to make informed choices and the markets are a wonderful place to start. Here’s to local.

  • “Sugar Daze/Cat: A friend of mine has a community garden plot. It’s very (very) small, but quite charming. I was going to investigate joining another CSA, but I do like shopping at the outdoor markets, where I try to scope out and patronize the vegetable and produce sellers who are producteurs – and Biocoop is a pretty good store as well.”

    This is actually an interesting comment, David, and one I had never thought about before — that the vendors at my local market (Poncelet) may actually produce some of their fruit & veg themselves. I’d much prefer to support local growers which is why I try to get to the Sat. market at Batignolles as often as possible but it’s not always practical. I do have the impression that many of the Poncelet stands are owned by the same company even if they have different names cause the sellers move around from time to time. Most of them import their goods. I’m going to take a closer look at some of the smaller stands next time & have a chat with the sellers about where their products are coming. Thanks for the tip!

  • PS I happened across the boutique in Pigalle yesterday which I think opened recently and is somewhat related to the topic. If you are over this way (I know, rare!), check it out. They seem to be selling mostly goods – cheeses, fruit/veg, charcuterie… from local/French producers and the presentation is really well-done. There is a restaurant just a cote. One of the cool treats in the epicerie is a stand where you select a glass bottle and operate a fresh-squeezed orange juicer to fill it up yourself!
    http://www.causses.org/

  • David,
    I am dying to see some pictures of your new digs. Please…..

  • Really great tips here,thanx!

  • Amazing article – I wish someone could do something similar for Madrid!

  • that is really neat that the EU requires information about where produce is from to be prominently displayed. I wish the US would catch up as far as responsible marketing goes. unfortunately we are very far behind.

  • Buying fresh, local, and organic is often an issue in Boston. Our climate doesn’t support fabulous year-round produce and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Massachusetts (or even New England) grown strawberry for less than a college tuition payment. I think we all have our ideal, that we have to pair with our reality. Great piece!

  • Jessica: Eating local in the winter is a challenge. Fortunately I like root vegetables a lot, and stewing greens, so it’s not a huge problem for me – and I really try to search them out. I don’t really crave (or want) asparagus in December or strawberries. But I do look forward to spring when they do appear.

    Anna: I assumed things in the US had to be labeled where they are from as well. But I guess that’s not the case?

  • Great article, we’re lucky that we have a fantastic local food market in Wells, Somerset.

  • Thank you David! The Fujimotos (yes, even my papa Bill) will be in Paris for a week in June and we rented an apartment. Now we know where to shop for produce! I’m sorry to say we might miss you since it will be at the end of June :(

  • Terrific list of hard-to-find info
    I’ll be staying not too far from POS -so great to know about it.
    Big merci

  • Such great resources! Wish I knew all of this while living in Paris….but I do have great memories wandering the markets to pick out the best, locally grown produce available. I even had a favorite booth where I became friends with the seller. He used to give me discounts on produce because I went to him every week. It was a lot of fun

  • Such a wonderful blog! probably the best blog about food that I have ever seen!

  • Interesting and useful. Used to live in Paris myself. Could have done with this info then…

  • IM SO JEALOUS!!!!!!!

    I’ve resorted to (trying) container gardening to get fresh produce for salads. salad is a luxury in Taiwan and i’ve yet to find anything besides iceberg lettuce in markets and groceries.

  • AMAP are very nice. You get fresh veggies and sometimes recipes as well, quite useful! I used to leave close to a “farm” in Auvers sur Oise, it is not an AMAP but they have wonderful products. I now live in Michigan, close to Detroit, where people start to grow urban gardens! A great start! I would love to grow my own vegetables but too many deers would enjoy them, they already eat the flowers… I love your blog thank you.

  • We have a great local street bazaars in Istanbul. But you have to be very picky when you buy something. For example you can buy normal spinach which has a big leaves and darker color for 2 TL for kg., regular egg is about 0.25 TL each. On the other hand as you said we have “someone who only has a small selection of seasonal produce”. He sells spinach soo baby like:), beautiful, fresh for 6 TL and eggs for 1 TL. It is kind of expensive but it’s worth it.. He also sell bunch of parsley with its root. If you use the top and put the roots to your flower pot it grows again..