A Year of Local Produce

paris local seasonal produce may green mango purple carrotsparis local seasonal produce juneparis local seasonal produce julyparis local seasonal produce augustparis local seasonal produce septemberparis local seasonal produce vitelotte octoberparis local seasonal produce november romanesco purple cauliflowerparis local seasonal produce december purple carrotsparis local seasonal produce january beet blood orange saladparis local seasonal produce february romanesco green mangoesparis local seasonal produce march borage cauliflower blossomsparis local seasonal produce april parsnips

My mom remembers when food started tasting different: beef went from grass-fed to corn-fed, apples lost their flavor, everything became waxier and bigger and more uniform. Not surprisingly, I never enjoyed produce like pears or grapes in the States. Coming here was a revelation. It took me awhile to get used to dirt-covered, blemished produce, but now I love finding slugs in my cauliflower. It means my food is wholesome, the flavor uncorrupted; everything's going to taste the way it's supposed to. Waiting months for my favorites to come back in season makes me appreciate them that much more! 

Anyway, I've gotten a few questions asking where I buy the purple potatoes. They're called vitelotte and I get them at Joël Thiébault's market stand. He's at Rue Gros on Thursdays from 7-2 and Avenue President Wilson on Saturdays. Real French people usually only eat them once a year or so, but we have them once a week because they're closer to ancient tubers, domesticated by the Incas on an Andean altiplano. The first cultivar was blue, and Incas grew a whole rainbow from pink to yellow and orange in all shapes and sizes. Faced with the challenge of farming a vertical surface, they bred different strains so plants grown next to each other wouldn't have to compete the way they do in a monoculture. Different, complementary neighbors thrive in different planes of sunshine, soak up water from different root levels, and overall capture more resources than would be possible under same-species competition. The resulting yields were impressive and resistant to disease or weather changes- an increasingly rare feat in our polyculture-deprived world.

Click here for a Paris market guide.
Paris to Go

Zero Waste Cleaning

I think I'm a negative person, because when I first moved to Paris, what I noticed wasn't the way cream-colored buildings caught the light or distinctive loggias dotting tree-lined boulevards. It was the thick layer of limescale on everything. Well-meaning friends gave advice, but their homes aggravated my Howard Hughes-level mysophobia- the 'fresh' scent of Ariel smelled like endocrine disruptors to me. For a zero-waste apartment, I use these biodegradable cleaners, stored in Aesop bottles made of pharmaceutical grade amber glass. 2018 note: The list below refers to my Paris routine. Now that I'm in the US and don't have hard water, I use Meow Meow Tweet liquid castile soap for everything from dishes, laundry, and windows to floors, counters, toilet, and tub with Redecker brushes (my same old dish brush with a replacement head, a tub brush from Refill Revolution, and lint free Redecker cloths from Wild Minimalist or Boston General Store). I filled my own jar with the castile, and it's so concentrated, I got twelve quarts of soap from it. I just put a little in an old kombucha bottle with distilled water and an upcycled sprayer. After that's used up, I'll use Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve's Simply Castile, which is local, palm oil free, and certified organic. Vinegar is still an excellent multipurpose cleaner, fabric softener, rinse aid etc., and I recommend it for all households. I do want to try and use less baking soda in the future.

Zero waste cleaners and natural, homemade disinfectants

White vinegar 

Spray directly on any surface and wipe off. To disinfect and remove hard water stains, let stand 10 minutes, then scrub with soap and water. Add 50 cl to laundry as fabric softener. For marble or wood floors, mix one part distilled water and one part vinegar; mop with vegetable sponge (see Cheryl Mendelson's comments on page 512 of Home Comforts about using any acid on tile and grout). Suitable as toilet cleaner, fruit and vegetable wash, stainless steel, jewelry, electronics and glass cleaner; rinse aid, and deodorizer. Vinegar is acidic- never mix with a base like castile soap.

According to peer-reviewed studies, vinegar can remove many bacteria and viruses, but not, for example, the poliovirus- it eliminates 90% of the population- and the norovirus. It's not the best at removing dirt,  so elbow grease and plain soap and water are needed- antibacterial products may not be as helpful or necessary as people think Updated to add: I now use castile soap for everything since I don't have hard water. See below for a comment on vinegar as a disinfectant compared to bleach. Vinegar is not a registered disinfectant. However, I often use vinegar over bleach, and I don't think it's dangerous to do so. For many household applications, bleach isn't necessary. Immunologists say we can coexist peacefully with microorganisms. After meat preparation or after an illness, however, a registered disinfectant is necessary, but the overuse of disinfectants isn’t necessarily helpful. The way bleach is manufactured lead to organochlorine pollution in the Great Lakes, where over 200 compounds were detected in water, soil, animals, and breast milk (only the amounts in breast milk were trace). These take centuries to decompose. Also, if you can only find vinegar in plastic, I don't recommend glass because even though it's fully recyclable, glass transportation has a hefty carbon footprint since the bottles are heavier than plastic. Try making scrap vinegar at home instead. It's easy, I personally just don't do it that often because A) I get vinegar at En Vrac and B) I eat all my apple cores, even the stems. I like lignin.

Aleppo / Palm Oil Free Castile Soap

Rub directly on stains to clean both porous and non-porous surfaces. Apply to damp brush to wash dishes. Grate soap for use as laundry detergent, or dissolve 70g grated soap in 2L boiling distilled water, and use for washing dishes, laundry, hand/body wash or shampoo. Can be used to clean upholstery or hand-wash dry cleaning. Tip: Pour dissolved soap mixture into a silicone ice cube tray and place in refrigerator for zero-waste, non-toxic laundry tabs.

Distilled water 

Place a glass or stoneware bowl in a pot of water (make sure it floats). Invert the lid and bring to boil. When condensation fills the bowl (place ice on the lid for faster results), cool and store. Add lavender or rose petals to the pot for linen water, facial toner, flavorings, or to freshen and dehumidify air. Combine with equal parts vodka in a spray bottle to freshen clothes, bedding and upholstery- zero waste Febreze.

Baking soda

Updated to add: I rarely use baking soda  anymore because it is a non renewable resource. Sprinkle on sofa, mattresses, carpets, rugs or upholstered items and vacuum after 30 minutes to deep clean. Pour in drains and chase with white vinegar. Use to scrub ovens, pans, litter boxes, tubs, and the sink. To kill mold without bleach, scrub surface mold with baking soda, then spray vinegar on area and leave one hour. To remove tarnish from silver, soak in baking soda with boiling water.  To clean drains, use snake and plunger, then follow with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water. Baking soda is a finite (though practically inexhaustable) resource that is mined from trona ore. It is not usually recycled and vast industrial quantities can persist in ecosystems, posing a risk to several species. However, the benefits outweigh the risks, which are mitigated by proper industrial disposal.

Olive oil

Zero-waste WD-40/Goo Gone- oil hinges, remove labels, and clean residue, gum and paint off of anything; cut with lemon juice to seal wood (or just use straight linseed oil), dust furniture, and polish shoes and silver. Buff thoroughly to prevent spoilage.

Beeswax / Candelilla

Rub directly on boots or rain coats to waterproof them. Melt 1/4 cup with a steamer to seal floors. Loosen rusty bolts and stuck drawers, preserve bronze, and repair rope. Combine 1/2 teaspoon with equal part olive oil to seal cutting boards.

Citrus slices/peels

Leave in gutters or on balcony to ward off mosquitoes; add to garbage can or garbage disposal to deodorize. Soak in vinegar for wood / all-purpose cleaner. Simmer on stove to dehumidify and scent the air. Use lemon slices to clean stains off butcher block countertops and disinfect cutting boards.

Plastic-Free Cleaning Tools

Flour sack towels

Despite the energy input required for cotton, I prefer these over microfiber for biodegradability and versatility. I use Fog Linen and Redecker towels now though, and they make great napkins and food wrappers. Instead of a wooden, plastic-free toilet brush, a specially designated flour sack towel works fine.

Compostable brush

We use this bamboo brush for scrubbing. After a year, the handle fell off and disappeared into compost, but the head is perfectly usable and disinfected in boiling vinegar every week. Redecker brushes are available throughout Paris.

Instead of spraying Lysol, open a window or set trash cans and litter boxes in the sun to freshen them. Even if your vacuum cleaner isn't bagless, you can compost the contents, rinse the bag, and re-use it. Try using a garment brush or vegetable sponge as a zero-waste lint roller (grow your own- they last indefinitely with proper care), and a galvanized bucket instead of a breakable plastic one. There's a learning curve with natural cleaning products, but now the first thing people say when they walk in is how clean and nice-smelling everything is. Everyone asks the name of our cleaning lady! 


Paris to Go