Monday, 5 January 2015

A beginners' guide to France's magnificent markets

No matter where you go in France, you are guaranteed fresh, healthy food at the many street and covered markets.
Some of the best fresh food experiences in the world can be enjoyed at the many thousands of markets that dot the map of France. 
Some are held daily, others maybe once or twice a week, but the markets offer a moveable feast of everything from tomatoes picked that morning to home-made charcuterie from organic pig farms.

Many of these markets stretch several blocks and offer a true paddock-to-plate experience, while in small villages there may be just a few stalls offering local specialities.
Look out for the world biologique, which the French use to indicate that produce has been grown organically. Agriculture biologique is French for organic farming, and organic goods are referred to as produits bio.
While most French markets continue a mixture of organic and regular produce, the French capital, Paris, has three designated “green bio” markets.
You’ll find these at Batignolles (Saturday mornings on boulevard des Batignolles outside the Rome métro station in the 17th arrondissement), Raspail (Sunday mornings on boulevard Raspail, between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes in the 6th arrondissement), and Brancusi (Saturday mornings on Place Constantin in the 14th arrondissement).
All these have stalls selling meat, fish, cheese and bread, along with dried fruits and nuts, rôtisserie poultry and baked goods. They are not, however, farmers markets, as they host both growers and retailers.

Many of the other Parisian markets have vendors offering sustainably-farmed goods – most will have a sign on their stall. The organic sector in France has quadrupled over the past decade and there are now well over 25,000 organic farms. A recent survey showed that 46% of French consumers eat organic products on a regular basis.
One city that has to be on any gastronomic tour of France is Lyon, which is has long been a magnet for lovers of fine food and wine. A “must visit” here is the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, the city’s best market, a permanent structure in the inner suburbs.
This market is not cheap but is paradise for anyone who loves gourmet goodies. Among the stalls not to miss are Mère Richard, a decadent cheese shop; Sibilia, a stunning charcuterie; and the chocolates and sweet treats at Sève (right).
It is a delight to spend a few hours here tasting the many local specialities from the 56 merchants, many of whom also have small restaurants or cafés attached to their stalls.
An alternative is the Saint-Antoine Market, a fresh food market along the banks of the River Saône from Tuesday-Sunday (below). There is also another, smaller, market in the Croix-Rousse quarter, also from Tuesday-Sunday.
Venues for purely organic markets in Lyon include Place Vanderpool on Tuesday mornings; Place Henri on Wednesday mornings; Place Commette on Thursday mornings and on Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse on Saturday mornings.

In the south, the port city of Marseille has no fewer than five small weekly street markets offering organic produce; on Friday mornings at Place Jean Jaurès; Monday mornings on Cours Pierre Puget; on Tuesday and Saturday mornings at Cours Joseph Thierry; Wednesday mornings on Boulevard Michelet and Thursday mornings at Place Sebastapol.
And while they may not be organic, two of my other favourite markets in France are in Nice, where the riotous colours of Provencal fruit and vegetables take the breath away, and in Beaune, in Burgundy, where small producers spill out of the market hall onto the streets nearby. Saturday is the big market day in Beaune and the market here dates back to the 14th century.
Nice, in the sunniest part of France, drew artists including Picasso and Matisse and its culinary gem is the morning street market in the heart of the old town, a feast of colour and chock-full of local specialities like olives and lavender.
The Cours Saleya is one of the liveliest areas of Nice and is the venue for flower, fruit and vegetable markets (right). These quintessentially Mediterranean markets are held Tuesday-Sunday mornings.
Finding organic markets
For a full list of organic markets in France visit www.bioetbienetre.fr

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