I can feel a change in the air, with the hope that warmer weather is inching its way around the corner. And when it arrives, I know what it will bring. Spring ingredients! Fresh fruit, beautiful leafy vegetables, and a flurry of excitement at markets all around, as people rejoice that (finally!) spring has arrived. Until then – we must make do with winter produce.
Compared to the sunny hues of springtime, wintertime usually involves fairly dull shades. Black coats, grey jumpers, black boots, grey hats, grey skies. And likewise, winter produce can sometime feel like it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to colour.
But a quick visit to one of Paris’ finest vegetable producers, and you’ll look on winter with new eyes. Winter cooking doesn’t have to rely on dull colours, especially if you can get your hands on some beautiful vibrant vegetables – such as the gems sold by gourmet producer Joël Thiébault at his stall at Marché Ave du Président Wilson, in Paris’ 16th arrondissement.
Known in Paris as the king of vegetables (a moniker I’d definitely agree with), Joël Thiébault sells his produce to some of the top chefs and restaurateurs in the city (and beyond). You might recognise the name from Episode 5 of my BBC television show, where I paid Joël a visit.
You can even have Joël’s vegetables delivered to your house. But I think it’s much more fun to go to the market yourself, and feast your eyes on a truly beautiful spread of the most colourful vegetables you’ve ever seen.
When you’re on a mission to brighten up your winter produce, look for carrots in a range of colours – purple, yellow, pink-ish hues, and classic orange.
Try more uncommon beetroot varieties like pink and white striped, or bright yellow. They’ll look stunning either roasted, or thinly sliced and tossed through a salad (and their curious colours will make for good meal-time conversation too!). Opt for turnips in purple or warm yellow shades (rather than white), and try long scarlet radishes.
See Joël in action here, and check opening hours and address details of his market stalls here. I’ve listed the Marché Ave du Président Wilson (and Joël Thiebault’s stall) in my round-up of my favourite places in Paris. To check out some of my other must-see spots, have a browse of my list.
Best to arrive early whilst the top produce is still available. I’d recommend arriving at around 9am to beat the crowds (this way you’ll only have to contend with serious market shoppers and little Parisian grannies ). And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of tackling a market in Paris, this BBC language video is a good place to practice some French phrases to try au marché.
Here are some delicious ideas for cooking with colourful winter vegetables:
Try my Spring Lamb Stew