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French Fruits and Vegetables in a Southern Garden/Potager

It's never too early or too late to plan a kitchen garden, charmingly known as a potager in French. It's even more enjoyable when you create a plan around French fruits and vegetables.

quince fruit

Before proceeding to potager plans for next year, it's time to keep a promise based on the picture you see above. Earlier this year, we discussed quince fruits in the article Compote de Coings: Quince Compote. As promised, here is a photo of the final fruiting stage. There were too few to harvest for preserves. People are right; this is a very hard fruit, and they fell to the ground before developing a slightly fuzzy exterior akin to peaches. Some say the fuzzy skin is necessary before consuming. If anyone knows for sure, then please comment below.

Speaking of fruits known by the French, garden plans for next year include two famed heirloom melons: Petit gris de Rennes and Charentais. Our region has a Cantaloupe Festival every year, and we often drive by a productive melon farm on the way to town. Even so, it may be wise to add some sand to the area designated for these melons due to the red clay soil dominating this area.

As for vegetables, there is an astounding variety of French heirlooms available in the United States. Carrots have easily re-seeded themselves here, so that was the excuse for choosing four varieties, yet there were several other choices still remaining. For this area of the South, the following carrots were chosen: Parisienne, Jaune Obtuse du Doubs, Chantenay Red Core, and St. Valery. The lettuce varieties are just as numerous, but they can be tricky for our hot and humid summers. Nonetheless, the lettuce list includes Merveille des Quatre Saisons, Sanguine Ameliore, and Reine des Glaces.

A southern garden usually has some kind of squash, so the French Patisson Squash will be introduced alongside southern stalwarts like zucchini and solid yellow squash. It is hoped that the squash will be cooked with Zebrune Shallot, also known as Cuisse de Poulet du Poitou due to looking like a chicken leg, so they say. Another newcomer to this garden will be Parisian Pickling Cucumbers. All of these French names seem to reveal interesting histories, so perhaps we can delve into that this winter.

Meanwhile, it didn't seem right to plan a French-themed potager in the Southern United States without including something from one of our highly French-influenced areas. The Louisiana 16-Inch Okra fits the bill perfectly. It's hard to go wrong with okra, and there are high hopes that this okra will indeed remain edible after passing the finger-length stage.

Of course, a potager is enhanced by herbs, but some of them are challenging to grow. If you like to grow based on themes, then you can grow the classic herbs from traditional French preparations. For example, this garden will include some of what is found in Herbes de Provence. This article is already a bit long, so let's talk again next month. That way, we will have more time to explore possibilities for French-themed herb gardens!


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