February makes the winter feel even longer (especially when it’s a leap year, like in 2020!)
And February 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 are known to pay attention to seasonal ingredients when preparing meals, so they get through these long winter months by cooking a variety of recipes based on what’s available at their markets.
However, there’s not much fresh produce coming from fruit and vegetable growers in February. Most of it has been stocked in warehouses before winter began.
Is anything at it’s best at French markets in February? Yes, but it’s not the cheapest item on the menu: black truffles!!
They’re at their best in flavor and maturity during February.
There are a few other products, so let’s go down the list – from surf to turf, the fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and cheeses – to see what arrives at French markets in February, what’s in high season and what’s past its prime.
What’s arriving 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 per person. (The French eat them scrambled with truffles).
Fruits & Vegetables:
Clemenvillas: sweeter than their hybrids, the clementine
Strawberries – they’re not French, but Spanish, and have little flavor, but they’re available at the markets in France.
What’s on its way out at markets in February?
From the sea:
Anchovies – They’re gone until their next in-season period, from July to October. Only salted anchovies remain available.
Shrimp or “Bouquet” – shrimp fishing diminishes in February but the price goes up
Mullet – or “Rouget-Barbet” The availability decreases and won’t increase again until October
From the Butcher:
Carrots and turnips – they ‘ve been stored in produce warehouses and become hard, fibrous or dry and “floury”.
The French sometimes turn to imported vegetables to offer better taste and texture as the 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 to go. The long pear season ends this month.
What’s in High Season at the French Market in February?
From the sea:
Seafood is abundant in February at French markets:
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
and for a more modest price:
pollack, plaice, and whiting.
Vacherin du Mont d’Or
The last 3 have been aged on average for 4 months. Those offered in February have been made with the best of the previous autumn’s milk which, after 4 months of aging, is exceptional in flavor.
There are still cabbage and winter salads (grown in protective greenhouses) as well as: pumpkins, salsify, and Chinese artichokes, celeriac, rutabaga, and fennel.
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 which is a varietal of chicory. A typical French recipe is with bacon, croutons and soft boiled eggs.
Truffles – This is their finest month.
The truffle season is short, but the list of ways to use it 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)
It’s the end of pears and apples. Most of the French markets turn to imported fruits from exotic climates:
bananas – from the French Antilles & Africa
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).
The seasonal products of February look a lot like what was available in January – yet another reason this month feels longer than most (even when it’s not a leap year).
February is the month where France is rounding the corner of winter.
Even so, there’s enough variety available to give French 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 market or grocery store? Do you change your ingredients and recipes according to the seasons?
Leave a comment below and let me know!
Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com