February makes the winter feel even longer.
And February at food markets in France means the season for game is over (think pheasant or boar, not football), but there’s still a lot of chicken, duck, and other meat around.
The French pay attention to seasonal ingredients when shopping at their food markets and preparing meals. They get through the long winter months by cooking various recipes based on availability.
However, there’s not much fresh produce from fruit and vegetable growers at this time of year. Most of it has been stocked in warehouses before winter began.
Is anything at its best at French food markets in February? Yes, but it’s not the cheapest item on the menu: black truffles!!
French black truffles are at their best in flavor and maturity during February.
There are a few other products that are good to buy, so let’s go down the list – from surf to turf, to the fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and cheeses – to see what’s in high season and what’s past its prime.
What’s coming into season at French markets in February:
From the sea:
- Wild-caught salmon: the salmon fishing season is open in Scotland in February
- Grey Mullet: a lesser-known, modestly priced fish that can be grilled or roasted
From the butcher:
- Suckling lamb – this starts to appear at the markets in February.
- Goose Eggs – larger than chicken eggs; you only need one goose egg per person. (The French eat them scrambled with truffles).
Fruits & Vegetables:
- Clemenvillas: sweeter than their hybrids, the clementine
- Strawberries -those found at the market are not French but Spanish. Unfortunately, they have little flavor.
What’s going out of season at French food markets in February?
From the Butcher:
- Carrots and turnips – They have been stored in produce warehouses and by February, become hard, fibrous, or dry and “floury.”
- The French sometimes turn to imported vegetables to offer better taste and texture as a last resort in this long winter month.
- Clementines – they’re not as juicy or as sweet. In March, they will disappear completely.
- Pears – The “Conférence” and “Passe-Crassane” are the last. The long pear season ends this month.
What’s in high season in February at French food markets?
Seafood is abundant in February at French markets:
- sea urchin
- sea scallops – February is the mid-season for this shellfish
- monkfish – a typical winter fish
- sole – it’s at its lowest price of the year in February
- sea bass
- and for a more modest price: pollack, plaice, and whiting.
- Vacherin du Mont d’Or
The last three kinds of cheese above have been aged on average for four months. Those offered in February have been made with the best of the previous autumn’s milk which, after four months of aging, is exceptional in flavor.
There are still cabbage and winter salads (grown in protective greenhouses).
- Chinese artichokes
- Cabbages: Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower
- Leeks – from the Loire, Brittany, and Normandy regions
- Spinach – from Provence and the French Riviera. There is also an abundance of baby spinach leaves in addition to the larger leaf varietals.
- Frisée – a curly salad that is a varietal of chicory. A typical French recipe includes bacon, croutons, and soft-boiled eggs.
- Truffles – February is the finest month for French truffles. The season for truffles is short, but the list of ways to use them is long. Here a just a few ways to use black truffles in cooking:
- -in a winter soup
- -with scrambled eggs
- -in a soufflé
- -in a roasted chicken (placed under the skin before cooking)
- bananas – from the French Antilles & Africa
- Pomegranate fruit
- the Victoria pineapple.
- kiwis – from the southwest of France, Corsica, or Italy
- lemons – the best month of the year, lemons from Corsica or Italy are juiciest in February
- grapefruit – the “pomelos” varietal, either pink or yellow, is at its best and is imported from the US (Florida).
February is the month when France is rounding the corner of winter.
French seasonal foods at the market look much like what was available in January – yet another reason this month feels longer than most!
Even so, there’s enough variety available to give winter recipes one last go before looking forward to the rich offerings of Spring that start to appear at markets in March.
And now you: How does this compare to what’s on offer at your food market or grocery store? Do you change your ingredients and recipes according to the seasons?
Please send me an email and let me know!
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com