The French culinary garden, or jardin potager, is an iconic planting style. Packed full of flavor, these classic French vegetables and herbs attract pollinators, beneficial insects, gardeners, and even eager chefs! Furthermore, they’re easy to grow, so you’ll be able to cultivate many of these plants in beds or containers.
Even if you only have a patio or balcony you can create your own little piece of France. Ready to get growing?
A staple of the vegetable garden, carrots happily grow in containers, flower beds and small gardens. They prefer shady spots and cool temperatures, and do best in the fall or early spring.
If you’re unsure how many carrots you need to plant, remember that a 1-ft row equates to roughly 1lb of carrots. To check the size of your roots before harvesting them, gently brush some soil from the top of the root. If the root seems a good size, the crop is ready to harvest.
Les oignons are some of the most iconic French vegetables. These members of the allium family grow in layers. The more leaves there are on top, the larger the bulb will be. They do best in sunny positions, in well-draining soil. Plant them at least 4 inches apart, though this gap may need to be bigger if you’re growing larger varieties.
This is one of the most essential French vegetables, and also has a reputation for being difficult. This is because celery requires a long growing season and dislikes extreme temperatures. It likes rich soil, and needs at least 6 hours of sun every day.
Don’t plant celery outside until the temperature is consistently above 50F. Once planted, you’ll need to regularly water and feed the crop. Some gardeners blanch their celery, believing that it makes to plant more tender. However this isn’t necessary and can reduce the amount of vitamins in the plant.
This long-lasting perennial is a favorite amongst growers of French vegetables. It’s an early spring vegetable, rich in both vitamins and minerals, and does best in sunny, well-dug soil. An asparagus bed is a long-term commitment, and can last for up to 15 years in the right location.
As well as the conventional green asparagus, you can also grow white and purple varieties, giving your garden a truly Gallic feel.
Not the most attractive of French vegetables, celeriac or celery root is a gnarly-looking root. While its leaves are edible, most people grow it for the root: the hypocotyls. This robust vegetable can be grated raw into salads and slaws, or cooked alongside other root vegetables. Despite its appearance, celeriac is surprisingly fragrant and has a lovely, delicate flavor.
Commonly known as Swiss chard or silverbeet, this is one of the most tender French vegetables. You can use young bette à carde leaves to flavor salads, while older leaves make a reliable spinach substitute in most recipes.
This easy-to-grow addition to your garden comes in many different varieties. Ruby Chard and Lucullus will add both color and interest to your garden.
Fennel has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient Egypt, and it’s common in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well. In French cuisine, fennel’s sweet, licorice-like flavor is used in soups, stews, or gratin style with root vegetables.
Le fenouil is easily grown from seed, and likes a sunny location in a well-draining bed. Place it at the back of your beds, as it can grow up to 6ft in height. It’s a short-lived perennial, but self-seeds enthusiastically. It’s also a useful companion plant, attracting beneficial insects—particularly butterflies—to your garden.
These delicate members of the allium family like damp, cool, rich soil. They’re often used in place of onions, and offer a more delicate, slightly sweet flavor. In French cuisine leeks (les poireaux) are often used raw, or similar to yellow onions in American cuisine. They’re firm favorites amongst French vegetables, and are often caramelized for use in pies, tarts, and casseroles, or served with a creamy sauce in a herby butter.
Thyme is an herb garden staple, and an overall attractive, versatile plant. It’s also easy to grow either from seed or divisions. Unusually it benefits from active neglect, and growing it in poor soil with little water will encourage the plant to thrive. In colder areas, mulching it in fall will protect it from winter temperatures. Remember to remove the mulch in the spring.
This easy-to-care for aromatic evergreen shrub produces needle-like leaves and attractive blue flowers during the warmer months. It’s happiest in well-draining, sandy soil in a sunny location, and dislikes colder temperatures. In fact, anything below 30F will damage the plant. In cooler climates, rosemary is best grown in containers. This enables you to move it inside when temperatures begin to fall.
This popular member of any herb garden will grow in beds or containers, and likes a sunny spot with good drainage. If you’re growing from seed, wait until the last frost has passed before sowing. Alternatively, start your basil in seed trays and transplant when temperatures begin to rise.
The more you harvest Basil the more it grows. Just remember to remove any flowers as soon as they appear, as flowering causes it to lose its flavor. By removing the flowers, the leaves will regain their flavor in a few days. Then you can harvest them to use in pistou.
Marjoram (marjolaine) is a useful companion plant that attracts scores of pollinators to the garden. Furthermore, there are 3 commonly grown varieties of this herb: sweet marjoram, pot marjoram, and wild marjoram or oregano. All do well in beds or containers.
These fragrant plants require little care apart from occasional watering, and are low-care plants for people new to herb gardens. In mild climates marjoram can sit outside in a sunny spot. Once temperatures fall and frosts begin, the plant should be moved indoors.
This delicate herb is popular amongst gardeners and pollinators alike for its fragrant aroma. Lavender works in a variety of planting schemes, though if you choose to grow lavender inside as part of a windowsill herb garden, make sure that it’s in a warm, sunny position.
Lavender generally needs to be a year old before it can be harvested. Once harvested, dry the flowers by hanging them upside-down in a dark area for a couple of weeks.
Popular for its flavor, this is another staple in amongst French vegetables and herbs. While parsley prefers well-draining, rich soil, it will grow in less-than-ideal conditions. It requires little maintenance apart from regular watering, and will grow in full sun or partial shade. Parsley is best used fresh, but can also be frozen for use at a later date.
Chervil isn’t one of the best-known French vegetables or herbs, but was popular in the Medieval and Tudor eras, and still makes an appearance in many French dishes. This herb is an annual, sweet herb that tastes like a combination of licorice and parsley.
It prefers shady, damp spots, and does best in rich soil. Wait until the last frost has passed before sowing, and carry out successive plantings for a continuous supply. In fact, sowing every two weeks will ensure a steady supply until the end of the season.
Oregano is another easy-to-care for herb that can either be grown indoors or outside. It originates in hot, arid regions, and as such prefers full sun positions. L’origan likes the soil to be dry—almost drought-like—so don’t water it too often. It’s also a useful companion plant, repelling insects that target beans and broccoli in particular.
Artichokes are some of the most recognisable French vegetables, and the hearts are often served with hollandaise sauce or fresh mayonnaise. They’ll grow in most climates, but will struggle in intensely warm areas Generally, artichokes prefer fertile, well-draining soil, but they can also grow in less-than-ideal conditions. Dividing the plant every 2 or 3 years will help to keep this perennial vegetable’s growth young and vigorous.
Although it may not be the most attractive herb in the garden, tarragon is nonetheless useful and delicious. It’s popular for its aromatic leaves and peppery flavor, and compliments a number of dishes and vinegars. The leaves have a distinctive anise-like flavor, but this plant can’t be grown well from seed. It must be propagated by divisions or cuttings instead.
There are two forms of savory: winter and summer, and both are used to season French vegetables. Winter savory is perennial with an intense flavor, whereas summer savory is an annual plant with a more subtle flavor. While summer savory will require a new planting every year, it’s often recommended that you begin with this variety before planting winter savory.
Possibly the easiest herb to grow, chives are a great choice if you want to introduce children to herb and vegetable gardening. Chives like light positions and rich soil, and grow very happily in pots. Just make sure that you water them regularly. In addition to the green leaves, chive flowers are also edible. In fact, you can add chive flowers to salads or soups for decoration as well as flavor.
Bay leaves are common used to season French vegetables, and are frequent flavorings in stews and soups. These full sun-loving plants are frost tender, and only hardy to USDA zone 7. If you do live in a climate mild enough to grow a bay tree, you’ll enjoy flowers throughout the spring and summer.
The French vegetables and herbs included here will allow you to create some classic French recipes simply by harvesting your garden. For example, to make a mirepoix base you’ll need carrots, onions, and celery: the first three items on our list. You’ll also find all the things that you need to make the classic Herbes de Provence.
Even if you aren’t the worlds keenest chef, planting all or a selection of these plants will help turn your garden into a Provencal work of art.