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Abruptly, it’s fall. The weather turned brisk this week, and I’m starting to wonder which box my scarves and gloves are in? When I lived in San Francisco, where the weather is notoriously fickle, the joke was that the only way to tell what season it is, is to hit the market.

True, not everybody is concerned with seasonality. I was recently asked during a television debate in France if eating well, and local, was expensive, which is a common belief in many places. Usually when things are in season, and when they’re at their peak, that’s when they are most reasonable. Being not only frugal, but as someone who enjoys good food, I do my best to shop when things are in season, and use my nose to let me know what’s good. That’s why it’s above our mouths; so we don’t eat anything bad.

The saddest part of the change of seasons to me is saying goodbye to plums, the last of the lingering summer stone fruits.

Mirabelles are almost gone, the tiny plums from the Lorraine region that attract a cult-like following. Contrary to popular belief, Mirabelle trees are available in the United States. The reason you don’t see the marble-sized plums in the States is that I think we’re keen on larger, tart plums, such as Santa Rosas and Elephant Hearts, and smaller, sweet plums like Mirabelles don’t hold the same sway. For those who want a taste, Bonne Maman sells Golden Plum jam, which is pretty good, although I make my own.

Another fruit that’s popular in France is Reine Claude plums. These are SO GOOD, that you can’t believe it. I’ve had some wan ones, and some extraordinary ones. The green color isn’t an indication of ripeness, or non-ripeness either. (Some dark green ones are extraordinary.) So I go to vendors who let me taste one before I buy.

I tasted one of these, shown above, but it didn’t have that syrupy sweetness that makes me plow through an entire bag before I even leave the market. I agree with fruit detective, David Karp, that they’re the best fruit in the world. But I passed, and will wait until next year.

The upside is that we’re transitioning to apples and pears. I’m not quite ready for them yet, but the market vendors are. And the tumble of apples is spilling forth, which I’ll start buying next week when I polish off the last of my prune plums (sniff…sniff…) and the two nectarines I’ve been guarding in my refrigerator, holding onto as long as possible.

Although not everything is local at the markets in Paris, the apples I buy don’t come from all that far away. My favorite French apples are Boskoop, which have a tart flavor, with juicy flesh, and lots of crunch.

The apple growers at my market are from Picardy, (or Picarde), and have outstanding strawberries and fraises des bois in the summer, and unusual ingredients in the fall and winter, such as red Belgian endive, in addition to apple juice, some flavored with cassis, and spritzy pétillant de rhubarb, which makes a nice apéritif, spiked with a little gin.

We’re also seeing the last of the Charentais melons. Unlike the punky plums, melons are still hanging in there. In fact, they’re about €1 each, because they’re trying to unload an overload of them. Rallying to the cause, I lugged home two melons, forgetting to save the heaviest things for my last pass through the market.

Speaking of which, a few years ago, I inadvertently found myself grabbing my L.L. Bean Boat and Tote bag before heading to the market, which I hadn’t used since prep school. Granted, I’m not using the same one, but these are amazingly sturdy, have wide, flat bottoms, so things don’t get squished, and you can sling them over your shoulder, like…when you bought melons at the beginning of the market and realize you have to carry them around with you while you do the rest of your shopping. Also the bottom doesn’t show any grit when you set it down on the ground to do your shopping.

Grapes are also coming into season. I just read about seven tonnes of grapes being stolen in Bordeaux, and I don’t recommend stealing grapes, finding it icky when I see people picking grapes off bunches at grocery stores and markets. No one wants to buy a bunch of grapes that you picked through. If you want a taste, ask.

These are Chasselas grapes, which are so prized in France, they’re protected with the A.O.P. designation, given to certain products (from fruits and cheeses) that guarantee that something is from a certain region, and made or raised a certain way. In Switzerland, they make wine from these grapes, which isn’t so popular in France, although some are made in Alsace, and I buy them when I find them.

Chasselas is the perfect wine to go with fondue, although the grapes themselves (above) are tasty for snacking. Their season is pretty limited, so get ’em while you can.

Dark Muscat grapes have a slightly spicy, fruit-forward flavor, and are also good for snacking. But they really shine in Grape Sherbet, and you don’t have to spit out any seeds, either.

The French aren’t known for their fondness for spicy foods. And sometimes, when I buy peppers, the vendors warn me that the peppers are “très fort,” and I have to explain to them that that’s why I’m buying them.

Things get a little daring with piment d’Espelette, a dried pepper from the Basque region (that carries the A.O.P. designation) that’s not quite hot, or spicy, but does add a kick – and color – to things.

Another thing the French haven’t embraced in corn on the cob, although you occasionally find it at markets nowadays, as it’s become something of a novelty. So much so, that someone opened a restaurant in Paris devoted to all-things corn.

The corn isn’t the sweet corn that you get in the States, but it’s something that we Americans just have to have in the summer. It just isn’t summer without it. Sometimes the fresh corn is good, and sometimes it’s just okay. Either way, I stopped putting pictures of my joyful “find” on social media because Debbie Downer inevitably chimes in with “GMOs! GMOs!” Jeez, let us expats have our annual ear of corn in peace, s’il vous plaît. Thanks.

Another thing Parisians are getting acquainted with is kale. It’s now easier to find; even the downscale supermarkets have it in their plastic bags of mixed salad greens. I remember coming across a bin of it on the shelf at a natural foods store, sometime around 2006, and swept the whole mess of it off the shelf, and into a bag. The cashier was a little stunned, and asked me “Where are you from?” And when I told him that I was American, he laughed, and said, “Of course.”

Now, thanks to Kristin Beddard of The Kale Project, we’ve got kale and even a kale café. Kristin wrote a terrific, spot-on book about her experiences in France, Bonjour Kale, which includes how (and why) she got French farmers to grow the now-branché  leafy green, in addition to adapting to life in her new home.

Every time I pass a bin of kale, I think of her, although someone needs to pick up the mantle and get them to grow Tuscan kale, or Lacinato kale. (Although I’m not complaining! Please don’t take away our kale.)

Instead of spicing food heavily, the French make frequent, and liberal, use of herbs. Compared to the U.S., they’re abundant, and cheap. Big bunches of flat-leaf parsley, cilantro and mint often sell for 50 centimes, and herbs like tarragon and thyme are €1, although for some reason, people keep stealing my thyme plants, so I guess one (1) euro is considered expensive.

Since many of the vendors have the same fruits and vegetables, they sometimes make an attempt to set up enticing displays.

Not sure if setting things on sheets of paper is much better looking than letting the foods shine for themselves…but I appreciate the effort.

These are carrots raised in sand. I’ve heard that they’re raised in sand so they get better drainage, and become sweeter. I’ve also heard because of that, they don’t have a tough core. I’ve also read that their primary fertilizer is seaweed. Whatever the case, I do buy them, although they require a good scrubbing first. We use them to make grated carrot salad, a classic French salad that’s simple enough to put together in a few minutes, and is a dish that everyone in France enjoys.

(On a sidenote, I was being interviewed by a lovely Frenchwoman recently and we were talking about generalizations and how if you say something, someone will take exception to it. But if there is someone in France that doesn’t like salade de carottes rapées, I haven’t met them.)

At a lot of the markets in France (notice I said “a lot,” but not all), it’s strictly forbidden to touch the produce. That stance has softened at some vendors at some markets. I very, very, very much dislike people picking out my fruits and vegetables for me. I’m more discerning than they are about what I bring home. A few people I trust to give me the right thing. And since I’m a frequent customer, they are cool about giving me the good stuff. But I don’t run my hands over everything, and touch and squeeze. I handle each piece of fruit with care, raising it up to my nose, and taking a good sniff. When checking grapes, I don’t pull grapes off bunches, but ask if I can taste one of the loose ones : )

I have a funny relationship to fennel. I don’t like it cooked, but love it raw. Its crunch is 90% of its enjoyment. Slices of raw fennel are great bathed in anchoïade or dipped in bagna cauda. But when very thinly sliced, fennel elevates a simple green salad into something more just than a pile of leaves. Try it.

Speaking of trying things, when we were on vacation, I thought I should finally own a pair of espadrilles. After a lifetime of standing in restaurant kitchens, I (and my feet) need all the support we get. But why should the young, and carefree, and French, have all the fun, looking all sporty and stuff, and not me?

Romain wrinkled his nose up when I was looking at them in Provence. I suppose I agree with him that they’re a little cliché, but I don’t mind looking like a cliché. (And neither do the thousands of people walking around these days, wearing intentionally torn jeans.) But having a French partner or spouse, as those of us with French partners or spouses know, they’re not shy about telling you the truth about what you’re wearing. Tip: If you’re sensitive, and not ready for an honest assessment of your wardrobe, don’t have a French partner or spouse.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten mine to temper his opinions and judgments. Well, up to the point. But two things we share a love of are wild mushrooms, and oysters. We’ve got girolles coming forward, and soon, there will be morels and cèpes galore. In case you want to hunt some for yourself – although this article scared the merde out of me, and I’m not so sure I’d want to do it – pharmacists in France are trained to spot poisonous mushrooms, and will tell you if your haul is okay to eat, or not. A French friend told me that they always tell you that they can’t be

A French friend told me that they always tell you that they can’t be eaten, since they don’t want to be responsible in case something happens to you. So I’m okay getting mine at the market, rather than taking my chances in the woods, which some friends did, and paid the price.

Oysters start showing up more and more at the markets, building a crescendo until Christmas, when so many are sold, they get stacked in crates on the sidewalks of Paris, and people buy ’em by the box.

There were a few crates of tomatoes remaining at the market, but the only producteur (grower) at my marché, who raise their own tomatoes, told me last week that they weren’t going to be back until next spring, when they show up with apricots and cherries.

So the only cherries we’re going to see until then are gonna be cherry tomatoes, which Parisians will not give up on, no matter what time of the year it is.

You will not go to a party or apéro in Paris without there being a bowl of tomates cerises – winter, spring, summer, or fall, on the table.

I do indulge, because it’s nice to have something fresh to snack on at a party, but I also love me a good slab of pâté, and usually buy a slice for sandwiches or snacking on, for a quick lunch.

One thing I haven’t tackled is a pied pané, or breaded pigs foot. You take them home and bake them in the oven – the French version of “take out” – then extract the hard-to-extract meat, nestled in between the bones, with the patience of a surgeon.

One thing that requires even more patience is waiting on line at the stand of the fromager. There are five or six cheese vendors at my market, but I usually buy from the lovely women that cheerfully greet me when it’s my turn, or the strapping, unshaven jeune homme that gives me copious samples, and wears tight tank tops in the summer, who, for some reason, has become my first choice.

But it’s a tough call, so I do try and divide my time, and purchases, between both.

So while I bid farewell to figs, plums, tomatoes and whatever else there is at the market, I’m ready for apples, pears, squash, spinach and Swiss chard,

Ever since getting pricked to death handling prickly pears back in California, and spending days getting the little buggers out of the area between my fingers, I’ve steered clear of them. I guess the figues de Barbarie, as they’re called in France, don’t have prickers. But just looking at them makes my hands itch, so I’ll stick to regular figs.

Potirons are showing up now, too, and the French squash are so big that they’re sold in wedges. I bought the slice on top, and brought it home to make soupe. I didn’t have any room in my bag for flowers, which didn’t please a certain Frenchman when I got home, but maybe if I can convince him to let me get a pair of espadrilles, he’ll get a bunch of roses next time, as thanks for his approval.



    • Rosemary

    But where do you find this/these markets? How far out of downtown do you have to go?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Many neighborhoods in Paris have outdoor markets once or twice a week, which are within walking distance from where people live.

      The city of Paris has a complete list of outdoor markets (with days and hours) at that link.

    • choosie soosie

    Two French friends showed me how to find mushrooms. After that I took the ones I found on my own to the local pharmacist, who divided them into three piles: the poisonous, the delicious, and the edible-but-not-worth-eating. So it works!

    • Stephanie

    I just got back from three weeks in Paris and noticed many people eating roasted corn on the cob…especially in the areas of Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord and in the 19th. Looks like it’s catching on…at least in certain neighborhoods.

    • Elizabeth

    Beautiful photos and writing, David, thank you. Makes me feel like I am there.

    • Estelle

    I spent the month of September in Paris and visited markets regularly-Place Monge and Porte Royal. I also toured the Royal Potager in Versailles where I saw collards growing. Are collards becoming popular in France along with kale? I did see kale in the markets but not collards.

    • witloof

    When I was in England in August I searched and searched for Tuscan kale and finally found some at an open air market in Cambridge. I bought three bunches and carried them with me all day, then cooked and ate all of it that night. Later that month I had dinner with friends in Exeter and there was one leaf of Tuscan kale on each of our plates. I had to explain what it was; they’d never seen it.

    I’m SO with you on being able to choose my own produce. When I lived in Paris in 1992 I found it continually frustrating to have to argue with the vendors who assumed that I was a rube because of my accent. They figured that they could give me anything a French person would reject, and that I wouldn’t know the difference.
    . {As an old friend used to say, I may speak with an accent but I don’t think with one,}

    • Daria

    Where are you growing your thyme so that people can steal it?

    • Krystal

    Our markets here in the US simply cannot compare to the ones in France. Especially frustrating, as I live in Florida, which should be able to produce decent varieties of fruits and veggies. I get tired of seeing the same varieties at the market and the grocery store – I want something that actually has flavor!

      • Geraldine

      Then move to Spain….I live in Barcelona, the veg is to die for.

    • Jessica

    What a beautiful tribute to the markets, thank you for such a wonderful read.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Krystal: I haven’t been to Florida in a while but a French friend lives in Sarasota and he tells me the farmers market there is terrific. Like in New York City, I know that the markets in the U.S. that insist everything be from local farms is limiting (especially in the NY winter!) but hopefully you can get some nice citrus, and perhaps tropical fruits, down where you live.

    witloof: I often tell visitors to go to the same shops and markets. Once they get to know you in France, you get a lot more latitude. But you’re right that things have changed in the last few years. As a foreigner (yup, with an accent), it does sometimes take a little more cajoling, but it is possible ; )

    Stephanie: Yes, there are African vendors roasting corn on the street by the gares, which is enjoyed by the locals, but it’s pretty tough. Supermarkets in France sell shrink-wrapped, pre-cooked, corn on the cob, but it’s pretty awful stuff. (Romain once bought it, because he loves corn on the cob, and it was very, very soggy.)

    Daria: It’s in a flower box by the window. Many of the other plants we’ve planted have been swiped, which is a shame because Paris has launched an initiative to végétalise (add greenery) the city, to make it more beautiful, and our efforts are being thwarted
    : – /

      • Karen H.

      Maybe you should grow some of those prickly pears in your windowboxes. That’d show ’em! Ouch!

    • Fran

    I’m not a gardener, but I believe carrots are grown in sand so that as they grow downwards, they don’t meet any lumps of soil, or stones, which would make them branch out sideways – result, nice straight carrots.

    • Taste of France

    On Saturday, I saw a couple reeling off their order at the market, only to be handed a basket to pick things themselves. It depends on the stall, but most of the vendors in Carcassonne let you choose yourself.
    I do the opposite of you–I buy the heavy things (melon) first, to put in the bottom of my old-lady shopping caddy. Actually, first I buy strawberries, because they sell out, and as I’m such a faithful client, the vendor keeps them for me until I’ve finished shopping.
    Down here, the tomatoes are nearing their end, but we have cherry tomatoes in our garden until Christmas.

    • Violette kogut

    I love to read your article, I am french and I understand and feel your writing.
    I just came back to Maryland Friday, and franckly neither Whole Food,Trader Joe or Wegman can compete with a french “ Marche”
    À bientôt

    • Gavrielle

    What a delightful post! Your beautiful green grape photo reminds me of a 17th century still life.

    • Rhonda

    Oh what a wonderful market! My husband and I are planning to relocate to Brittany for retirement, and as I pulled my Dutch Baby Pancake from the oven I was wondering if I can buy an enameled cast iron fry pan in France? I will forgo the weight of 4 or 5 pairs of shoes to bring my perfectly seasoned one, if I can’t get one there!

      • Rhonda

      I meant non enameled.

    • Rhonda

    Oh what a wonderful market! My husband and I are planning to relocate to Brittany for retirement, and as I pulled my Dutch Baby Pancake from the oven I was wondering if I can buy a nonenameled cast iron fry pan in France? I will forgo the weight of 4 or 5 pairs of shoes to bring my perfectly seasoned one, if I can’t get one there!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve seen non-enameled cast iron at some of the cookware stands are the markets, but they usually have those folding wire handles. sells Lodge pans, if you don’t want to carry one over. Nisbets also carries cast iron skillets.

      • Geraldine

      Go to you will find them there, but of course you will have to season a new one.

    • evelyn

    Your delicious photos make me want to lick the screen on my iPad:-)As always, I very much enjoy your witty commentary, as well.

    • Jerry Kashinski

    Love the L L Bean bag. I have a couple that are 40+ years old and still going strong. Can’t beat the quality.

    • BananaBirkLarsen

    Prickly pears! I had a similarly painful experience the first time I went foraging for them, but I found that heavy leather gardening gloves keep out most of those sharp little hairs and that you can burn them all off by skewering the whole fruit and turning it through the open flame on a gas stove. Never found a way to stop the magenta juice from staining the stovetop though.

      • june2

      The guys that pick them where I live use a blow torch to sear the prickles off before crating them for the local shops.

      I’ll share my favorite way to eat them: fill an entire blender with the peeled orbs, (slice both ends off then score the peel top to bottom, and pull the rind off in one piece with your fingers), then pulse til smooth. Pour out into a screen sieve over a bowl and pour resulting juice a tall glass. NECTAR of the Gods. You’re welcome : D

        • june2

        The green ones are the only ones I use…

    • Diane

    Such a wonderful article. Thank you!

    Are you going to do any book events in Paris?

    • june2

    PS: any idea what variety that pumpkin is? I am eating a bowl of Kabocha pumpkin soup right now and always wonder if any other squash will ever top that one! That French one looks similarly rich and dry.

    • Kristen

    Thanks for a wonderful article.

    • Parisbreakfast

    Such gorgeous pictures! Just the inspiration I need to get to work on my automne seasonal veg watercolor. This summer I gave in. So desperate for corn I made the vacuum-packed threesome from the super marche. Not half bad when you’re desperate.

    • Deborah Larrabee

    Thank you, Daveed…I can’t get out to go to the market here in the Cévennes (work; deadline), so you made my day ! It’s always a pleasure to read you.

    PS You remind me to go out in the garrigue and renew my thyme !

    • millet

    beautiful. this post is just beautiful. and please get the espadrilles for yourself, and the roses for the Frenchman ;-) next time

    • Geraldine

    What a pleasure to read your always entertains and VERY informative articles. I will meditate for you as I live up the coast from BARCELONA on the MED where we get EVERYTHING so many more months in the year, and oh the FUNGI, walking two blocks from my house……it is indeed breathtaking.

    • Anastasia

    I could just cry every time I see how much fabulous cheese costs in Europe. That 2.45 Euro goat cheese would run me 8 – 10 dollars here!

    • Felicia

    My daughter and I are flying to Paris tonight, and we’re heading to the Richard Lenoir market as soon as we are settled tomorrow morning. It’s our favorite; we’ve never visited in the fall and look forward to seeing the beautiful fruits, vegetables and flowers of the season. Thanks for this lovely post.

    • ron shapley

    Oh Dave….suddenly I’m interested in the jeune homme .. You paint such a lovely picture……As for this column, beautifully reported..

    • Sandi R

    Oh how I would love to shop your makets! Figs are $1.each at our local market and I would love the Mirabelle plums if they were good. The pictures made me so hungry.

    • Annabel

    If you do get espadrilles, don’t even think of wearing them if there is a chance it is going to rain – the soles act as a sponge and soak up any water they find, making sure your feet are absolutely soaking within a couple of minutes.

    Meanwhile, I do wish the markets here – and I live within walking distance of one of the famous London street markets – would pay attention to the seasons, but they never seem to. Or very, very little; they sell the same things all year round! I’ve just been in Germany, and points east, where everything at the moment is about pumpkins – all the shops are selling them very cheaply (I got a small one to bring home), and in parts of Hungary and Croatia they were just piled up in the fields, waiting to be collected. All the restaurants in Germany had their pumpkin menus, like they have asparagus menus when that’s in season…. amazing!

    • Marjorie

    Thank you for the beautiful account and photos capturing the transition from summer to fall at the French markets. I share your opinion of Reine Claude plums. I always look for them at the markets and am sad when their season passes.

    • Bonnie L

    Mirabelle plums are sold at our Burlington VT farmers market – by the same orchard that has cherries earlier in the summer. They are wonderful, and I do make jam. My personal favorite was the abundance of blackberries sold at the small market on our island. I will savor that jam all winter – if it lasts that long! Enjoyed the photos of your market!

    • Jeannette

    I love all those beautiful pictures!

    • Amy in Hunting Valley, Ohio

    David, only you could make a photo of fish heads look so appealing. Thank you for transporting me along on your trip to the marvelous market in Paris through your blog!

    • Regina

    HI Daveeed, Where are you recommending the best hot chocolate these days. Your latest list I could find was 2006 or 9. I am staying in the 7th. Love all you do as always!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      No revisions or new finds since that list was published : )

      Have a great trip!

    • Andrew

    How do you pair grapes with fondue? That season is fast approaching though we’re having a bit of last gasp Indian Summer. (Do you have a cheese fondue recipe you or your readers would share?)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve not had grapes (or fruit) with cheese fondue, but there is a recipe for Swiss fondue here.

        • Andrew

        I’ve been making fondue for years and your article taught me some new tricks! The kirsch on the cube of bread and the squeeze of lemon especially grateful for.

    • Denise

    Hi David,

    As if I didn’t want to move to Paris already. Your posts are so witty and funny, and such a pleasure to read. I loved this one, it totally felt like I was there. Thanks for taking me along. :)


    • Victor @

    Wow, I would pay anything for those artichokes, plums and grapes lol..

    Here in Toronto we don’t have such a variety, but there are a few places that stock really good seasonal produce from all over the world. For example, now you can buy Greek and Spanish figs that are amazingly delicious, local Ontario strawberries are fantastic, Ontario peaches, plums just recently ended – those were really good, etc.

    Large supermarkets here mostly carry tasteless genetically modified produce that is often more expensive and that I rarely buy to be honest.

    • calgal

    I recently moved to Germany, just a 4-hour drive from Paris. Maybe I’ll have to make a drive down to one of these markets, you’re definitely tempting me with all these gorgeous pictures! I’ll look out for that guy in a tight tank top too…


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