Oh la la la la ~ le shopping

I guess for most people when they think about shopping in France they think of Parisian boulevards and their designer shops, artful window displays and smart doormen at the ready. Or maybe you think of markets laden with fresh produce, cheeses and meats from the provinces, fresh fish from the Atlantic coast.

But for someone who has a gardening gene in her, these boutiques hold little appeal. This gardening gene must run deep within me because I haven’t bothered much with the markets here in the Alps, the occasional forray for some cheese from a local producer has been about my limit.

But as we start to pack up and prepare to leave (have I mentioned this before? Cue rolling of eyes…..!) I had to go shopping – garden shopping that is. How could I pass up the opportunity of paying a visit to a local garden centre? Exactement mes amis!

I had a couple of “must-haves” in mind, some Radis Noir and Cornichon. We have really enjoyed eating the Cornichon (Gherkin) we buy in jars, and I’m sure homegrown and home marinated would be even more delectable. They are part of the cucumber/pumpkin family and I grow these all the time, but the crunch of a pickled cucumber is appealing and a new one for me to grow.

Then there are the Radis Noir (Navet Noir Long), you see these all the time in winter in France – a winter Radish, a chunky dark brown-skinned radish with wonderful crisp white flesh on the inside. They are not the most photogenic of vegetables to grow, but make a lovely addition to a winter salad, or used instead of turnips in a stir fry or stew or just on their own a top of a slice of buttered bread.

And then of course as this gardening gene runs so deep and with a little encouragement I bought a few more packets – I take very little encouragement by the way! A few of these, some of those and sure enough we have some plans and dreams.

A packet of Royal Chantenay carrots – lovely little orange stubby carrots, perfect for the clay soil in the allotment, I will plant some rows between the garlic (classic inter-crop and companion planting).

And then there had to be some beans – a box of Flagolets were winking at me, I swear they were! Plus some yellow dwarf beans (De Rocquencourt). A smattering of Fennel for autumn/winter eating, an Italian variety of Poiree or Swiss Chard to be picked young like spinach, an all year round variety of Cauliflower (will they be a success??), some Romanesco seeds, again will it grow well for me? And finally a packet of Mesclun that looked like a pretty and irresistable mix.

Hopefully come this summer and winter we will have a petit momento of France in our vegetable garden to remind us of our soujourn. Bon chance mes amis


  • Now these are some wonderful souvenirs, Claire! In fact, for many of us, they are the best kind. Depending upon the plant, you may be able to harvest some seeds and keep a bit of France in your garden for years to come. Good thinking!

    • Ooo I hadn’t even got round to thinking about saving seeds, great idea John! I think the beans will be easiest, but I’d be interested to try the radish too 🙂

  • We planted Danish cucumber seeds yesterday, along with some herbs, marigold and nasturtium seeds. The cucumber seeds are indoors, but the annual flower seeds are in the greenhouse and should be okay there until they germinate. Hopefully all of our overnight frosts will be finished by then. We had a very hard frost last night, and I drapped fleece over the daisies that we just planted out. Fingers crossed!

  • Last February Hubby was in Paris – sans Moi – and went to the Bio exposition. He brought me home a box with 20 different seed packets. One of them was a cuke variety called cornichon.
    Best. Cuke. Ever.
    I pickled them at all sizes, AND they were great in salads. I HAD to find them to plant this year…
    Not so easy…One US source, and they didn’t have much else that I wanted.
    I wound up ordering four varieties of basil seeds to make it worthwhile.
    Happy Gardening!

    • “I wound up ordering four varieties of basil seeds to make it worthwhile” Oh I recognise that statement!! Damn those seed shopping sites 🙂
      The seeds as a gift sound perfect – and a BEST EVER cuke – simply wow! You probably don’t need to know this but Seeds of Kokopelli are wonderful, I have no idea if they deliver to the States or if it is ok for you to buy outside of the States – http://www.terredesemences.com/seedsearch.asp

      • It’s tricky – and expensive! – to get seeds from overseas. There was a French company that was licensed to sell to the US, but the cost of the seeds plus shipping was more than I spent for the cukes and all 4 basils.
        No trip to Paris this spring, so no chance to stock up over there!

        • Shame about no trip to Paris this Spring, Marie. I guess little Angels have changed plans somewhat!
          If there are any seeds you’d like just shout, I’d be more than happy to pack a few off 🙂

  • Claire, I would be one to hang out in the garden supply and avoid the couture scene, and seeds that come in boxes? Novel! Your selections look gorgeous and we will be waiting for pictures of growing, then eating, and of course your final reviews on ease of propagation and flavor!
    ~ Lynda
    (The end bit sounds demanding I think, but really I am just excited for you. 😉 )

    • Hi Lynda, until I bought seeds from Italy and France I didn’t realise that seeds could come in boxes either – they are perfect for beans and peas.
      let’s hope they do well!

  • Oh, you definitely have the garden gene! I would only grow all that if someone plunked me down on a patch of land and told me I had to grow my own food. You will have a lovely assortment of fresh things to eat.

  • Proper useful souvenirs there. I have noticed that the seed packets on mainland Europe are much bigger than what we in Ireland and UK get for same money.

    • Bridget you are absolutely right I’m sure the European seeds packets have many more seeds in and at a better price. I’ve noticed it with thing slike pumpkins and cucumbers, which can be very expensive at home and you only get 1/2 dozen seeds. I wonder why?! Is it consumer led or is it frankly speaking just a piss take 😉

  • Seeds are great souvenir! Last spring we took a trip to New Mexico. We didn’t do much shopping, but we did buy a few packets chile pepper seeds in Santa Fe. It was fun to have a reminder of our trip in the garden all summer!

    • What a lovely memory of a holiday. I bought some back from India last year, but have had very little success with them, I’m going to try again this year, if not I’ll just put it down to a nice experience of buying the seeds!

  • Every year when we are overseas I think about buying seeds and I never do! This year I am going to, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Hi Mandy, that’s lovely that I’ve inspired you 🙂 More than anything else I think it’s a fun way to remember a good holiday. Bon Voyage!

  • What a blissful shopping adventure! Perfect timing, just before returning home and starting more spring planting. Looking forward to following this springs garden.

  • The gardening gene! Fabulous! I can’t wait to see the end results. I can’t pass a good garden center without going in…I have a few very special places I will drive two hours of Los Angeles freeway/traffic just to visit. It doesn’t even matter if my purchases aren’t particularly reasonable given how little time I have to follow-up, but the joy is there, and worth the effort. I think your follow-through is much better than mine–and I applaud! Debra

    • The gardening gene is the only way I can explain myself! And oh my, a 2 hour car journey – Yikes!. But I know what you mean about wanting to visit a particular nursery, and to wander around, gathering inspiration, humming and aahhing at what is in bloom, and wondering whether XYZ would do well in your garden. Just perfect

  • like postcards that arrive day after day after day, filled with a bit of the earth from whence you came! you’re my kind of girl! 🙂

  • Hi Claire!
    You got me there I thought this post was about fashion, French fashion… 😉 Well I guess that being a food blogger I like this kind of shopping too.

    • Hi Giovanna, I’m sorry, I didn’t take you shopping in Paris, maybe another time 🙂 But as you say as a food blogger this is where your food delights start their life !

  • Claire.. you’re a girl after my own heart.. I’d much rather go through garden centers when on holidays than clothing shops!! I love your purchases and can’t wait to see them growing on your blog!!

  • It is so hard not to buy seeds. They are small and don’t take up much space and don’t weigh anything. I can’t wait to see how your little French plants like their new English home.

  • You’re talking about the sort of food that we have here too, and I can really imagine how much you will enjoy these vegetables at home. How nice!

    • I think many vegetables are quite universal (with some obvious exceptions for tropoical stuff) but it’s how we prepare and cook them that differs.

    • It took me a while to appreciate them, but from what I usderstand they are very different if you home pickle – like many things, onions, beetroot etc are always so different than the shop bought ones

  • That’s my favorite souvenir I have brought home from a couple of different trips: seeds. You will have so much fun with these! Hurray!

  • My garden is planted, my seeds have sprouted….but I would have loved some of your beautiful little seed boxes to use. They look so exotic to us here in the U.S.A. who are used to our little seed envelopes…which might look exotic to folks in France?

  • Hi Teresa, isn’t it funny what looks exotic for one person is hum drum normal to another! In the UK we don’t see the boxes that much, but definitely in France and Italy they are common for peas and beans – it makes a lot of sense, particuarly when you open the packets, use half and then have to deal with the errant beans and peas that have a tendency to escape their unsealed packets 🙂

  • Hello, I’ve come to you via your comment on Choc Chip Uru’s blog and liked the sound of your name! I like what I’m reading here too. 🙂

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