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Tips for Weekly Produce Shopping

July 18, 2015

Just the name of her blog is irresistible: And since I am a Francophile trying to eat six servings of vegetables a day, the cookbook title was pretty irresistible too: The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes From My Parisian Kitchen (New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2013).

I was prepared to skip all the text and plunge straight into the recipes, but Clotilde Dusoulier is an utterly captivating food writer. In her introduction, she advises the reader. Especially for those of us who cook for only one or two, her words hit home:

How to shop for produce

“If … you make do with mass-cultivated produce that’s been grown out of season, pumped with chemicals, picked before it’s had a chance to ripen, and driven or flown in refrigerated containers for a great distance, no matter of cooking skills can fix that situation.

French Market Cookbook“That’s why learning to cook should really begin with learning how to shop….

“There is one nonnegotiable caveat, whether or not you shop intuitively: You need to buy a combination of produce that keeps and produce that doesn’t. If you go on a weekly produce run, which is ideal, you should aim to buy two or three days’ worth of fragile vegetables and fill the rest of your basket with the sturdier ones that will last until the end of the week at least.

“Neglecting this rule leads directly to the feelings of guilt and despair that seize all of us when we open the fridge only to be faced with moldy arugula and limp carrots.”

Clotilde proceeds to categorize various vegetables:

  • Fragile (use within two days): artichokes, asparagus, berries, cherries, fava beans, figs, green beans, green peas, leafy fresh herbs, melon (if ripe), mushrooms, scallions, small salad leaves, Swiss chard leaves
  • Somewhat sturdy (use within four days to a week, checking them daily): apricots, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, endives, fennel, grapes, heads of lettuce, kiwifruit, kohlrabi, nectarines, peaches, pears, quinces, radishes, shell beans, spinach, Swiss chard stalks, summer squash
  • Sturdy (use within two weeks): apples, beets, cabbages, carrots, celery, celery root, citrus fruits, ginger, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, salsify, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash
  • Long storage (use within a few months): dried fruits, garlic, nuts, onions, shallots

How has the logic has escaped me all these years? Shop less often but use the fragile vegetables first. Don’t be wedded to the planned menu and grocery list. Look for the freshest produce.

Photos: To market, to market…Saturday morning at HEB; Home again, home again…without a fresh pig, but the tab was $100. Easting healthy is neither cheap nor fast.