I’ve always been a bit picky. And by that I mean being good at picking things, and not displaying frequent outbursts of fussy diva behaviour, à la Mariah Carey. I’m great at picking wine. And restaurants. I even spent four months voluntarily being paid peanuts to pick fruit and potatoes in the Australian hinterland. And I picked Paris (well technically it kind of chose me too, but that’s a story that needs an expertly selected bottle of wine handy for the telling).
So it was with a big Kim smile and an eager rub together of the magic picking hands when my friend Corinne told me she was taking me to Les Fermes de Gally just outside of Paris where I could pick my own vegetables and get to take them home afterwards. For a gal raised in the country who needs a good dose of proper fresh air every now and again or I go a little bit crazy, it was on par with telling a Frenchman he had just qualified for a free cheese allowance for life.
Luckily Corinne was equipped with a car, so we hopped in, strapped her adorable toddler daughter in for the ride, and headed off with glee at the prospect of getting good ol’ real dirt (as opposed to gross metro slime) under our fingernails. Thank God we took the car though and didn’t rely on my flea-bitten donkey, given that it’s a bit of a drive out of Paris in the commune of Bailly, a good 15k past the périphérique at the western edge of Paris.
But make the effort of crossing the force field (i.e. the ring road), and the ride is more than worth it. Well, obviously only if picking your own produce direct from the farm appeals to you, if not then stick to Carrefour with its natty tweeting birds soundtrack in the veg aisle. For those die-hard supermarketeers who haven’t ever seen a tomato in the wild, the gnarly misshapen versions hanging off the gigantic plants might scare you. But this is nature my friends, in all of its imperfect, back-to-basics glory. Real tomatoes are not the same size. And they are not born in cellophane.
Not so much an option for the weekly shop as it’s a bit of a hike, and you won’t find bushes necessarily blooming uncontrollably with produce given that everyone else has had the same idea. But if you like good honest food, enjoy the thrill of the harvest and a bit of dirt on your potatoes, then you can’t go far wrong. For those not keen on getting soil on their chinos, there’s also a café and shop where you can buy the farm’s own produce (soups, cider and the like), and a teaching farm for the smaller folk.
Without a doubt the shortest route from field to plate you’ll find in Paris (unless you grow kale in window boxes like me where I can harvest and cook at the same time), it hardly needs saying that everything is seasonal and grown in the most planet-friendly way possible. Sadly you’re not supposed to eat stuff on the way round (utter torture, really), and it’s a good idea to take plastic bags with you to carry your spoils home in. Those old style welly boots with goggle frog eyes on the toes, entirely optional. Open April to November.