Results tagged biologique from David Lebovitz

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.

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Bergamot (Sweet Lemon) Marmalade

bergamots

Like Pistachio Gelato or Polenta Ice Cream, this recipe might fall into the category of “Things You Can’t Make” for some of you.

Yes, bergamots aren’t something one runs across everyday in the supermarket, or even at greengrocers. But mid-winter, depending on where you live, you just might get lucky and happen across some, as I recently did. Twice! (Although the second time took a bit of moxie.)

bergamot marmalade

There’s conflicting information what a bergamot actually is, but it’s definitely a member of the citrus family and most consider it to be a relative of the bitter orange, which might have been mated with a lemon at some point in its dubious past.

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Community Supported Agriculture, in Paris

About a year ago, I was having supper in a friend’s apartment and everything we ate was simple, and tasted really good. He’d lived on a farm near Toulouse for many years, where he worked for one of France’s agricultural organizations. Now he lives in Paris and I was surprised when he told me that the onions we were eating on the tart he’d made were from a panier, or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.

pannier

He gets a weekly panier from Les Paniers du Val de Loire. I kept hemming and hawing, thinking how nice it was to shop at my local market and pick out everything myself. But I finally signed up a couple of weeks ago, and got my first panier yesterday.

Living in San Francisco and working closely with a lot of farmers and small-producers in my restaurant career, I have a weakness for hard-working small producers who are trying to do the right thing. I remember a woman showing up at our back door with a box of amazing French butter pears, asking us if she planted more trees, would we would buy them? (We took a bite and said that we’d take any and all that she wanted to bring us, a promise we made good on.) I remember an organic dairy sending us their first samples, and customer reaction made us realize that people weren’t ready for the strong taste of farm-fresh dairy products.

And there was Mr. Hadsell, a frail old man who could barely walk, who’d open the kitchen screen door and shuffle inside, balancing a few flats of just-picked raspberries from his backyard. You could feel the warmth of the sun radiating from each basket of plump, perfect berries. Those were the best raspberries I ever had in my life and I hope the lucky customers that got them felt the same.

beet greens

But elsewhere, it can be an uphill battle to find just-picked, fresh produce, even in a country with strong ties to its agricultural traditions, like France.

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