Following the seasons

Being vegetarian or vegan, you can live on a low food budget in France, if you're ready to prepare your food yourself, because vegetables and fruits are so cheap!
It's cheap because France produces a lot of fruit and vegetables. This, however, has another consequence: you've got to "follow seasons". Why? For example because chicory grows in the winter, chicory is very cheap in the winter, but you won't find them at any reasonable price in the summer! This "season following" habit isn't really present in Britain, so here is a bit more detail about vegetables and fruit to buy when they are cheap. And don't think it's all about money! Following the seasons also means you use fruit and vegetables when they are tastiest!

*In winter

Chicory : For November until March, they are best. Go for the big bags of them: they're -really- cheap. They'll make tasty bitter salads in seconds. It's great with walnuts or roasted pin kernels, and if you're not vegan, with crumbs of Roquefort cheese.
Mandarines : when the winter's gone, they're not very nice and a lot more expensive. Indulge all winter on firm tangerines and oranges, at their best of taste, and the vitamin C boost will keep the colds away.
Litchies : it seems we now get a lot of litchies in our supermarkets in winter, and they are cheap and tasty. You can even find them in bags of 1 kg.
Kiwi fruit : Another one for your winter vitamins!

*In spring

Asparagus : You can buy them loose or in bunches. Several varieties are available, small or big, whiter or greener. They won't be all washed and clean as they are in the UK, but they'll be a lot cheaper.

Cherries : Buy them loose everywhere from early spring to early summer. Avoid the very first ones, as they would have being lacking sun and won't be as sweet and tasty.
Strawberries : They are available nearly all-year-round, but go for the spring strawberries. You'll be able to find the "garriguette" variety, with quite small dark-red so-tasty fruits.

*In summer

Peaches and nectarines : You get the best deals if you buy them by the tray. In this format, you can get down to less than 1 franc per peach! If you don't want to buy so many, it will still be very affordable bying them loose in the summer.
Apricots : Recognise the ones that got ripe on the tree, rather than in the shop, by looking for cracks or splits. They happened when the fruit was sun-bathing!
Tomatoes : Once you bought nice and ripe summer toms, you won't want any of them out of season! (if you still want some spring tomatoes, get the "on the vine" ones, more expensive but nicer)
Red-currants, black-currants : Get little baskets of them for 10 francs. They're packed with vitamins!

*In autumn

Walnuts : They are great for snacking or breaking in salads.
Grapes : Only in autumn, you will find it cheap, tasty, and in many different varieties.
Cepes (wild mushrooms) : Especially in the south-west of France, October and November are two months when everyone picks (only if you know what you're doing!), buys, and indulges on these expensive and gorgeous mushrooms (Cepes or Bolets). The open markets then offer a lot of them at a very good price.

Related books:

Eating with the Seasons, by Paula Bartimeus.

According to the ancient Chinese, the secret of good health was to live in harmony with nature. This was achieved by observing the seasonal cycles of life and by living of the land. In this text, Paula Bartimeus re-establishes this principle and shows how, by eating the food that grows in the ground around us from season to season, we can maintain our connection with the earth and receive nourishment to support our health and keep us in balance.

Four Seasons Cookery Book, by Margaret Costa.
"If I had to choose only one book to cook from for the rest of my life it would be this one." --Nigel Slater
"This is a book no cook should be able to do without." --Nigella Lawson
" ... it's with love and gratitude that I am privileged to commend this unique and wonderful book..." --Delia Smith


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