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This past weekend was an important one. Madame Mustard finally finally brought her kale to both Marché Batignolles and Marché Raspail. And by finally… I truly mean finally. After I’d given her the seeds back in June. But her first little crop was eaten by snails – who knew that snails were such fans of chou – and she replanted in late September. Then there of course is the issue that sometimes she rarely remembers who I am.
But the kale was there and it was gorgeous, wonderful baby leaves – which you definitely will not be able to find anywhere else in Paris. Who would have thought that almost six months ago you could not find kale and now Paris even has baby kale? But it makes sense that she sells her kale as baby kale because “young” plants are her specialty. She sells young mustard greens and sometimes young spinach leaves. Now that there are other distributors (not local producers) selling kale, I’m hoping she sticks to selling her young leaves.
In December, Mariana and I went out to her farm for an afternoon trip. [See the video of our trip!] It was dark, grey, cold and practically snowing. We left the Paris city circle and headed east to a small town, through winding roads and then finally down a long half dirt-half paved hill where we stopped and landed in Madame Mustard’s farm
Her production is small. She has a small plot of land, that in 2008 was devastated and almost completely destroyed by fire. It’s taken her some time to slowly rebuild everything but she showed us where certain herbs are in the spring and summer, introduced us to her dog and then led us to the green house where she is growing the kale. There weren’t many rows – perhaps just six or seven – and the kale was even tinier that the kale she is now selling. The dog trotted along, keeping guard of his owner as we took photos and talked to her about growing the kale and more about her small farm. She showed us where the snails had eaten some of the previous plants as she continued working and plowing away in the dirt. I stumbled along with my French, Mariana saved the day with her French and Madame Mustard even attempted to speak a few words of English with me.
“I spend about 16 hours a day out here working in my fields.”
She doesn’t have much but she works hard. Her small plot of land is also her home. If you head to the Marché Batignolles of Marché Raspail, I encourage you all to buy Madame Mustard’s baby kale. It’s organic, truly local and cultivated with the passion of one woman working closely with the earth.