Tender new asparagus, fresh artichokes as big as your head, sweet, sun-kissed apricots, hyssop plants and two puppies so young their eyes weren’t even opened — I wanted everything at the Thursday farmer’s market in Chinon. I wanted the wild poppies and lavender of June and the golden light of the French countryside, too. None of it would have passed US customs nor fit in my carry-on. But I can bring a little French sunshine into my life, and so can you, with French puy lentils.
Like all lentils, puy lentils are small, quick-cooking and need no pre-soak. But they’re far from your basic brown lentils. Puy lentils are grown in the Loire and taste distinctly of place. Their nutty, mineral flavor comes from the rocky soil itself. They have a firm texture, not at all mushy. They’re deep green, speckly and stylish — they’re French, after all, and honey, vive la differénce.
France is one of the most sustainable countries, and lentils are one of the most sustainable crops to grow. Low water, low carbon, high yield, they actually put nutrients back into the soil. They put nutrients in us, too, being loaded with fiber and protein. Do lentils strike you as humble, cheri? Lentil salad with a zingy mustard vinaigrette is on more than a few Parisian menus. Sitting on a cafe terrace, eating lentils and wearing a little black dress, I felt like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and beyond lucky.
For fresh apricots, artichokes, asparagus and artisanal Cabernet Franc, I suggest running away to the Loire. But you can find other French delights much closer to home. Lentils du puy. are pantry-friendly and shelf-stable. Enjoy them any time for a taste of France.