Traditionally, most French vegetables were grown in the family vegetable garden, called the potager. With increased urbanization this tradition has fallen somewhat by the wayside, although you will still find a lot of charming potagers in the French countryside. They are truly delightful and not to be missed.
Despite an increase in industrialized agruiculture, for the most part French vegetables are grown on a smaller scale than what you see in North America. You will still find maraichers, or market gardeners, who work the lands near towns and sell their produce at the town's open air market.
This smaller scale production tends to produce tastier vegetables and it adds a lot to French food culture. At the market you will find people that are selling food that they have grown themselves. Most will enjoy discussing their wares with you, including ways to prepare the produce they are selling.
Shopping at the Market
When we lived in French Guyana, the only place to find fresh fruits and vegetables was at the chaotic market. It was open two mornings a week, rain or shine. I often grumbled as I had to buy all of the weeks produce and carry it around with me as I went from stall to stall. My sack got very heavy as I progressed. Still the market was interesting and I would always meet people I knew there. And if I wanted to know anything about a particular fruit or vegetable, all I had to do was ask.
So what vegetables do the French eat?
For the most part French vegetables are similar to what you find in North America, but the French do tend to eat some vegetables that I wasn't too familiar with on arriving in France. Endive, shallots, fennel, and leeks come quickly to mind. These are things that are often used in French vegetable recipes and are surely worth a try if you are unfamiliar with them.
Some vegetables get special mention in France called the the AOC (Appelation d'Origine Controlée). This is a very high honor and you may have noticed that French wine is sometimes distinguished with this mark. If you buy a product with AOC marked on it, you are being promised that it came from a certain place. This confers upon the product a distinct taste and appearance, and is considered a guarantee of quality.
There are only a few vegetables that have received this honor:
Coco de Paimpol, white beans from the region of Bretagne.
Pomme de Terre de l'ile de Rey, potatoes from the region of Vendée.
You will find lots of vegetable recipes on this site because I love vegetables. My family is somewhat
dismayed over how enthusiastic I can be over something so simple as broccoli, but I find a lot of French
friends share my enthusiasm.
Now that you know a little more about French vegetables in general, why not look a little further into each and maybe try a vegetable recipe. French vegetable recipes usually strive to showcase what is very good and distinctive about a particular produce.
Two Brussel Sprouts Recipes Here are two great recipes for enjoying these nutritious vegetables. Learn how to select, store, and clean brussel sprouts too.
Cabbage Types Cabbage is a very popular in France year round. It is eaten both raw and cooked. Find out about the
different types of cabbage and a few tips for selecting and cooking it.
Celery Root Puree What a delicious change from the usual mashed potatoes! This light and flavorful puree goes well with just about anything. If you've never tried celery root, I highly recommend you do so.
Fennel Recipes Fennel has a lovely light licorice taste that mellows to a delicious sweetness when cooked in a Compotée de fenouil. It is also good raw, as in the
fennel salad recipe included here.
Leek Recipes Leeks are very popular and available year round in France. In the springtime we enjoy poireaux primeurs but you can use other types in these recipes. Learn how to select, clean, conserve, an prepare leeks.
Mesclun Mix Mesclun mix is a tasty combination of different young salad greens. Find out about how it originated and how best to enjoy your salad.
Types of Onions Find a great recipe for onion soup and onion pie as well as information about these tasty vegetables.
Baked Fish Recipe using Shallots Learn about shallots, a very popular ingredient in French cooking, and try using them in this lovely looking and great tasting recipe.
Ratatouille Recipe This classic French recipe from sunny Provence uses all of the vegetables you'd be likely to find in a potager at the height of summer: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers.
Turnips Turnips have been eaten in France for a very long time. They are a dependable and surprisingly nutritious vegetable.
Baked Zucchini Recipe -
Zucchini topped with olive oil, fleur de sel, pepper and parmesan cheese. This is a very simple side dish that goes with just about anything. You can follow along with the video or just print out the recipe.