I’ve recently received requests from a couple of readers who were about to move to (or spend a little while in) Paris, and were wondering about natural and organic foods, and where to find them.
Agriculture biologique is French for organic farming, and organic goods are referred to as produits bio. Organic produce, grains, dairy, and meat are increasingly popular with French consumers, and although they still come at a higher price than conventionally grown goods, they are now more widely available than ever.
In Paris, here are the sources you can choose from:
There are three all-organic open-air greenmarkets in Paris: Batignolles (Saturday mornings on boulevard des Batignolles outside the Rome métro station in the 17th — my favorite), Raspail (Sunday mornings on boulevard Raspail, between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes in the 6th), and Brancusi (Saturday mornings on Place Constantin in the 14th).
At these you will find produce, meat, fish, cheese, bread, and various specialty stalls that may be devoted to dried fruits and nuts, rôtisserie poultry, baked goods, potted herbs, flavored salts, herbal remedies, etc.
These are not, strictly speaking, farmers markets, as they welcome both growers and retailers (and growers who complement their own offerings with produce purchased from elsewhere), so it’s worth asking for clarification if you’d rather buy your produce directly from the grower.
Prices also vary widely from stall to stall and can reach ridiculous heights, so it’s good to take a full walk around the market and compare prices, and to have about you a general sense of how much you’re willing to pay for your multicolored radishes and your goat cheese faisselle.
Beyond the organic nature of the produce, the secondary benefit of these markets is that they’re great places to discover unusual varieties of herbs, fruits, and vegetables that you would never find in conventional stores.
Note that other, conventional greenmarkets (see full list) are likely to have one or two vendors selling organic produce.
Organic grocery stores
Several chains of organic grocery stores are represented in Paris, with locations sprinkled throughout the city: Naturalia (owned by the Monoprix group), Biocoop (my favorite, I just wish there was a location closer to me), Bio c’ Bon (a newish and promising chain despite the ridiculous name), Les Nouveaux Robinsons (who recently opened their first Paris location and acquired the Bio Génération chain), and La Vie Claire.
In them you will find everything from fresh and packaged foods, to cleaning supplies, to beauty products. They will be your best shot if you’re trying to find alternative flours and sweeteners, unrefined sugars, whole grains, legumes, nuts, oils, non-dairy milks, soy products, gluten-free ingredients, and anything remotely granola.