Ratatouille is one of France’s most famous dishes (thanks, in part, to a certain cartoon rat) and there’s no better time to rustle up this veggie feast for the senses than in summer when many of its staple ingredients are at their best on the market stalls of southern France. Here’s what to look out for right now if you’re shopping au marché…
What fresh ingredients can you find in French markets to make a ratatouille?
From dark green to creamy white, courgette is omnipresent on market stalls during summer. Originally from Mexico, it arrived in Europe in the 19th century and is now ubiquitous on market stalls in France. In France, peak courgette season is June to September and almost 157,000 tonnes were grown in 2022, mainly in Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
The courgette is rich in vitamins and nutrients, and is delicious raw as well as being easy to cook. Slice and char it briefly on a griddle and serve drizzled with olive oil, grate it in a salad, spiralise it, pop it in a quiche or turn it into soup. Or add it to your ratatouille, of course!
Native to Asia, the aubergine has established itself firmly as a mainstay of Mediterranean cuisine. With a peak season running from June to September, it comes in all shapes and sizes: purple, green, orange, white, round or long. The dark purple variety is the most common, but look out too for
l’aubergine œuf, so called because it looks like a hard-boiled egg. More than 42,000 tonne were harvested in 2022 in France, mainly in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Did you know… although we think of the aurbergine as a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit!
Yellow, green, red… the pepper is one of the stars of summer, with its peak season kicking off in June. Native to South America, 25,950 tonnes were grown in France in 2022, mostly in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Green peppers are crunchier and more bitter, yellow peppers are juicier and red peppers tend to be sweeter. Green or red are your best choice for a ratatouille, while yellow works well in a salad. Did you know… All peppers are green when they grow: they are harvested at different stages of maturity so that they have different flavours.
Marmande, beef, cherry… the varieties of tomatoes are manifold. The tomato arrived in France in the 16th century after its discovery in South America and it was originally used as an ornamental plant in gardens. Now they are very much for eating – on average, each French household eats 14kg of tomatoes a year. The main growing areas are Brittany, Provence-Alpes Côte-d’Azur and Pays de la Loire and in 2022, 711,000 tonnes were produced. The peak season is in June, but earlier and later varieties can be found on market stalls from May to September. Like the aubergine, the tomato is actually a fruit.
Now you have all the ingredients for a ratatouille, what recipe should you use?
Here are three recipes we recommend if you’re looking to make a delicious ratatouille:
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