Paris Street Markets

Strolling through the Paris street markets is one of the great joys of visiting the city.  These markets, which are held all across Paris, seem to appear magically to hold forth their wares for a few hours, and just as magically disappear.  Within an few minutes after closing, city sanitation workers appear, haul away the trash and scrub the streets clean.

The core of the Paris street markets are caravans of small trucks or wagons which, when not mobile, convert into stalls with umbrellas and awnings. The same market may do the rounds of one or several arrondissements on different days.

Stalls offer vast displays of cheese, olives, bread, fish, meat, charcuterie, wine and fruit. The products come from all over France and are always fresh.

There may be stalls of hardware and pots and pans; china, including plain white plates and coffee bowls; dresses, jeans and hats; cheap foot ware; flowers and plants; and invariably men selling leather belts, bags and sandals and ethnic brass bangles.

But the chief justification for the Paris street market is its fresh produce. Crowning the fish and poultry, the cheese and sausages, are the fruit and vegetables.  They are a beautiful sight, not in the conventional sense perhaps, for the French don't believe that big and unblemished equals better, but for their sheer profusion and diversity.

You can choose from six or more different types of salad green, from the familiar romaine, to the faintly bitter scarole or the quaintly named pissenlit, dandelion leaves (supposed to have diuretic properties).  Tomatoes come in wide variety. Potatoes can be yellow and waxy, excellent for salads, red or dark violet; beans can be green, purple or yellow, smooth or bumpy

Some vegetables have a natural tag of origin—baby turnips and carrots still with their feathery tops, tied together in bunches; courgettes, zucchini, with their orange flowers. Mangetout peas, where you eat the pod and all, are common. Leeks are pencil thin and celery is a darker green.

Vegetables that are rare treats elsewhere are common place in France—Swill chard or seakale beet with fat white ribs, delicate pinkish shallots (échalotes), fleshy cèpes and chanterelles from the fungus family.  There are artichokes: the large round sort are from Brittany, the smaller thin ones, which can be eaten whole when young, from Provence.   Asparagus is plentiful in May and June; try the thick white variety which the French rate more highly than the more common green type.

The range of fruit is also impressive, particularly in the summer when you have a choice between white fleshed peaches or nectarines, Charentais or Canteloupe melons, cherries or strawberries.

Our favorite markets are Maubert and Monge in the 5th Arrondissement, Bastille in the 11th, and Grennelle in the 15th.

Buy a warm baquette, a chunk of cheese, some fruit and a bottle of wine and head to the Luxembourg Gardens for a great lunch.

Here is where to find the Paris street markets!

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