Stroll Through Any French Market Place & The Range of Fruit, Veg & Other Local Products Is Huge. Many Are Rarely Available In The U.K. Here Are My Favourite Unusual French Fruit & Veg.
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Or as my French friends would say …
Fruits et légumes français insolites sur les marchés
I love strolling through French markets. The sights, the sounds, the aromas of Unusual French Fruit & Veg, fungi and more is distinctive to each market. Years ago I worked at a French agricultural university. Perhaps it sounds unusual for an agricultural university, but this one was right in the centre of Lyon, nestled between the Rhone and the Saone, in Place Bellecour.
I lived in the Croix Rousse quarter and shopped in the street markets. Life was good and the “Unusual French Fruit & Veg” fresh and wholesome.
Of course none of the French fruit and veg I bought will be unusual to you if you live in France. But look for them in a British market or supermarket and they are much harder, or even impossible, to find.
Here are some of the more Unusual French Fruit & Veg I know well. I’ll be adding more over the next weeks and aim to have at least 12 unusual French veg by the end.
Salsify has been grown in France and Italy since the 16th century, though it originates in the eastern Mediterranean. In the UK it was first grown in the 18th century but has since decreased in popularity. Salsify is a root crop and like a deep soil in which to root.
Confusingly there are both white and black salsify. These are actually different species, the black, aka Spanish Salsify being Scorzonera hispanica, whilst the white is Tragopogon porrifolius. Both are edible.
Being from the Mediterranean salsify prefers a warm sunny site. It is also partial to light, free-draining soil. Both roots and new shoots can be eaten . Roots can be sautéed in butter, baked, pureed or creamed. Dishes include soups and sauces plus eating roots or shoots when cooked whole.
Cardoons, Cynara cardunculus, aka Globe artichoke, are the domesticated form of the wild cardoon. They aren’t often seen in uk supermarkets though a few specialist shops sometimes stock them.
Le lupin comestible: Lupinus albus. Edible white lupin
In the UK lupins are a garden flower. And in the past they have been grown for cattle. But in France they eat edible lupins. It’s the white lupin that is eaten. Only the seed is eaten.
Lupinus albus is a species of annual herb of the Fabaceae (bean) family, they are native to southeastern Europe and western Asia.
The Lupinus genus has nearly 600 species of herbaceous plants that are grown for their edible seeds or for their stately flower spikes.
Lupins are a legume so they capture nitrogen and help feed both the plant and the soil. That’s good for your soil and the planet.
Don’t grow the normal garden varieties for eating as they have a high concentrations of lupine which is a toxic alkaloid. Choose the varieties bred for eating. I’ve not seen any UK websites selling them but they are available in France.
Strictly speaking this isn’t an unusual fruit to veg. It’s a flower.
Tilleul is the flower of the lime tree. But not the citrus lime. The species here is Tillia.
It’s used to make a tea or tisane as my French friends would say. The French claim it is drunk for its soothing qualities.
Colourful Round Courgettes
I’ve grown these in my UK garden, so why have I added them here? Simply because I rarely see them for sale in the UK.
However, I see them in many French markets.
A few months ago I drove through Le Puy en Velay in the Auvergne region of France. They’ve grown lentils here for 2000 years.
Lentils, Lens esculenta puyensis (or L. culinaris puyensis) variety, are a legume. They produce a green lentil that is legally protected in France as an AOC … appelation d’origine controlle.
The crop loves the volcanic based terrior (soil and more than just soil, it inclues many additional environmental factors) which is said to give it it’s unique peppery flavour and the ability to retain their shape after cooking. Puy are grown in the region organically with just 88 locations granted AOC status
Here’s a link to a Puy Lentil Salad that really shows off the lentils peppery flavour. You could of course substitute many of the salad ingredients and even the cheese. Enjoy.
Puy lentils are not the only French lentil. Du Berry lentils are also green lentils grown in France. But the are only granted the Red Label whilst Puy are AOC.
Did you know lentils are now grown commercially in the UK? Lentils can be grown in UK gardens and allotments as well.
Photo supplied by Jessica Spengler, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Best French Street Markets
Every city, town and larger village has a street market selling fresh fruit and veg. Each claims to the the best in the country.
So which is best. Well, here’s one article that claims to know the answers.
I’ll be adding more French Fruit & Veg in the coming weeks
I’ve written a range of unusual fruit and veg articles. Here’s the one about unusual fruit and veg we can grow in the UK
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