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December 2023

Jacqueline & Françoise RISSO

Market gardeners, it's in the blood

« toujours fascinées par la beauté de la nature et de la terre qui nourrit les hommes . »

Par Anne Emellina - Photo Jean-Michel Sordello
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Welcome to the Cours Saleya, the main pedestrian thoroughfare in the old town of Nice. Established in 1861 by Mayor François Malausséna as the town's first flower, fruit and vegetable market, this large urban garden is home to local figures celebrated for the quality of their produce. The Risso sisters are among the market gardeners working passionately to keep their family business going. Their parents grew fruit and vegetables on two plots of land in Saint-Jeannet and one in Saint-Laurent du Var from the 50s onwards. Back then, they also had a lot of fruit trees and sold their luscious peaches and greengages wholesale and retail on the Cours Saleya. The Risso girls were often behind this stall, which started 40 years ago. There was no shortage of work on the farm, and the children pitched in to help. Jacqueline always knew she would take over, but Françoise hesitated. But despite the toughness of the job, both are “still fascinated by the beauty of nature and the land that feeds us”. They have been selling their produce in the Saleya market’s “farmers' corner” since 1986, attracting top chefs like Dominique Le Stanc from La Merenda, whom they used to supply at Le Negresco. Nowadays, they only grow vegetables. In winter, cabbages, leeks, brocoletti, squash, chard... and they only set up their stall on a Saturday. As soon as spring arrives, you can find them on Tuesdays and Thursdays and every weekend with their crates full of aubergines, onions, beans, and peppers grown in open fields. Could it be this land that produces such a good tomato as the Rita, the famous Cœur de Bœuf reserved by Le Louis XV in Monaco, Virginie Basselot at the Negresco or, more recently, Onice? Yes, but this tomato, named in honour of their mother, is their own, and they replant the old seeds every year. Sown during the Christmas moon, they arrive at the end of May and ripen on the plant before being picked when the sugar-producing maturation process is complete. Sweet, very fleshy, with no acidity and few seeds, they are eagerly snapped up and make all the difference.

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