I have always been a big fan of farmers markets. Last spring I wrote a piece for this website likening the start of farmers market season to Christmas. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that my favorite part about living in Provence during the month of August would be its renowned marchés.
Every village, and I mean every village, down to the teensy tiniest medieval hilltop ones, holds a market in its main square at least once a week. Some villages have two weekly markets, and some, like my fave in Antibes, are held everyday. In an attempt to stay organized, I came upon a website which lists the 75 weekly markets in the département (region) of Alpes-Maritimes. This way I do not need to worry about purchasing more than one pêche plate (doughnut peach) per day; I can buy one everyday.
What makes these marchés so special? The variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, cheeses, sausages, meats, olives, olive oils, spices, pastries, linens, clothing, crafts, and the list goes on and on. The vendors are cordial and welcoming; offering samples à goûter and allowing me to take endless photos (even if only purchasing one pêche plate!).
In season right now are peaches, apricots, plums (of every color and size), strawberries (the fraises des bois are the most intensely strawberried strawberries ever), blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries (super tart, but refreshing), raspberries, melons (the Charentais!), figs, radishes, zucchini (especially the small courgettes) and zucchini blossoms, eggplants, green beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes (the coeur de boeuf heirloom is my go-to tomato). Olive trees grow everywhere in this area and the markets are chock-full of cured black and green olive varieties, as well as olive oils, tapenades, products made from the wood of olive trees, as well as skin-care products. Most markets carry more exotic spices than I ever imagined possible, and the aroma of them, when the morning sun hit them is intoxicating. The daily market in Antibes has a spice vendor that sells the most amazing varieties of fleur de sel: mushroom, fig, raspberry, lavender, etc. And then, there are the cheeses. Chèvre (goat) and Roquefort are both produced in this area, as are a number of other heretofore unheard of varieties. I have sampled them all and, trust me, they are délicieux!
Second to the daily market in Antibes, is the Friday market in Valbonne (one of the closer villages to La Pitchoune). I have been to that market every Friday since the end of July, and each visit begins with breakfast at La Galtière for made-at-the-market crêpes. In about one minute Céline, la crêpière, will whip up a custom crêpe, savory or sweet, filled with your choice of cheese, ham, tomato, egg, onion confit, pesto, fruit confitures or nutella. To those who know me, and are thinking, “Betsy, you are diabetic,” relax. Céline’s crêpes are made with buckwheat…and they are good for me, right?
A crêpe, followed by a noisette (espresso with a bit of foamed milk), and I, armed with my market bags, am good-to-go for a full morning of shopping les marchés provençaux. On the docket for tomorrow; the historic Marché Forville in Cannes, a fave of Julia Childs.