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Eating in season is probably rule number one when it comes to traditional French savoir-vivre. Over here in France this way of eating is not only logical but practical. Unlike in North America where just about any fruit or vegetable is available twelve months of the year thanks to refrigerated transport trucks and Hydroponics, in the outdoor markets of France and even in the grocery stores, you cannot find strawberries in December or clementines in June. Fresh produce is bought and sold according to the natural cycle of Winter, Spring, Fall and Summer.

It’s true that in some French stores nowadays you can find certain varieties of apples all year around. But if you pay attention to who buys them, in Paris anyway, it’ll be the tourists, the new comers, the visitors, perhaps ever now and then the young who are cooking for themselves for the first time. As a general rule, the French tend to stick to their seasonal eating habits.

I have to admit that when I first came to France I had no idea when certain fruit or vegetables were in season. Well, that’s not completely true. I knew that citrus fruit were winter produce because when I lived in Florida January was the cultivating season for oranges and grapefruits. Yet, for the most part, when I arrived in Paris, I thought France had a very small selection of produce in their grocery stores compared to what I was used to at Whole Foods, Loblaw’s or Publix.

Over the years, quite contrary to my first impressions, France has introduced me to a whole world of fruits and vegetables I never knew existed. Like fresh prunes, Mirabelle and figs in autumn, or black tomatoes, chestnuts, black radishes, elderberries or even sunroot or parsnip. I grew up eating carrots, celery with peanut butter, potatoes with sour cream, strawberries sprinkled with sugar, bananas and grapes.

I thought lettuce came in three varieties: Iceberg, Romaine and Bagged Mix.

In an effort to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained by immersing into the French culture, here is a list of fruit and vegetables by their proper season.

Bonnes courses!

Spring:

Vegetables

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • English or Snow peas
  • Fava beans
  • Green beans
  • Green garlic
  • New potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Bitter lettuces (Arugula, French/Belgium endives, Escarole, Chicory)
  • Vidalia onions
  • Zucchini

Fruit

  • Apricots
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries

Summer:

Vegetables

  • Beets
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Fresh herbs
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Summer squash
  • Summer lettuce (Romaine, Mâche, Butterhead, Oak Left green/red)

Fruit

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Limes
  • Mangos
  • Melons
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes

Fall:

Vegetables

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage (green, Napa, red, Savoy)
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Green tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnip
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Shallots
  • Shelling beans
  • Turnip
  • Winter squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti)

Fruit

  • Apples
  • Cranberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Mirabelles
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Prunes

Winter:

Vegetables

  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (green, napa, red, savoy)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Fennel
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Winter squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti)
  • Yams

Fruit

  • Citrus (grapefruit, lemons, oranges, tangerines)
  • Dates
  • Pears