French Vegetables for the Fall Table

Bring a taste of France to your table by growing and cooking with these classic French crops.

| November/December 2019

woman
Photo by Stocksy/Laura Austin

In France, it seems as if everyone has a garden. In fact, for many people, vegetable gardens take precedence over lawns. And it’s not just homeowners who enjoy getting their hands in the dirt; apartment dwellers can find a small spot of land in city gardens, and cities and factories parcel out unused land and make it available to employees or residents. Perhaps it’s the heritage of years of deprivation during war, or perhaps there’s a peasant farmer in the heart of every French man and woman; whatever the reason, vegetables grow in the front and back yards of millions of homes and buildings across the country.

My wife, Michèle, is from Normandy, France, and when we moved to Jamestown, New York, in 1965, we were constantly searching area markets for the same vegetables her family grew in their home garden. So, when we started our garden, the first things we planted were French vegetables that we couldn’t find in local grocery stores. Even today, these vegetables are difficult to find in big supermarkets. Fortunately, you can grow them yourself. Here’s a look at three French vegetables that you can easily add to your home garden.

Sorrel

We’ve found that sorrel is unfamiliar to most Americans, which is unfortunate, because it makes a delicious soup and a wonderful fish sauce. Both have a creamy, lemony taste.



Sorrel is a leafy perennial that’s easy to grow and requires little maintenance. You’re not likely to find it in your local grocery store because the leaves wilt too fast for commercial shipping, so you’ll have to grow your own.

There are two main species of sorrel: garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and French sorrel (R. scutatus). Garden sorrel has elongated, spade-shaped leaves, while French sorrel has broader, heart-shaped leaves. We’ve grown both, and in our opinion, French sorrel is less acidic. And when it comes to cooking, the French variety has crisper, less fibrous leaves that are easier to strip off the center stems and clean.






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