Whenever I’m in town for the weekend, I stock up on food at the Farmer’s Market. I have been going for years and years now – I can’t really remember when it began but I’d guess almost 20 years ago. It has moved around quite a bit, but now seems nicely settled around the beautiful, big, indigenous Fig Tree beside Harry Gwala Stadium.
The broom seller greets everyone in many languages, so sometimes I get a cheerful ‘dulmela’ and others a ‘molo’. Certainly makes me feel welcome, but how many grass brooms can one girl buy?
I always start with the Dovehouse Organic stall as they sell out fast. Zoe Duncan is my favourite person and gives me a big hug. She just loves selling at the market even though it means a seriously early start from the farm in Karkloof. I fill my bag with radishes, carrots, fennel, leeks, beetroot and I could have had cabbage, avos, spinach, turnips, sprouts, bananas and lettuce too. I say hello to little Rafaro who shops on behalf of her mum and always buys 3 big bunches of organic kale and a tray of eggs.
Then, I stop at the Biscuit Lady who also sells local pasta (made in Kranskop) and next the Goat’s Cheese Lady who has 4 much loved goats on her small holding in Ashburton – her black pepper Chevin is fab.
Free Range eggs are from Otto’s Bluff. This morning, Gill told me how she had once visited an egg producing factory with a group of school children and how they were all traumatised by what they saw. Her chickens have a very happy life. Next door are happy potatoes, which according to the farmer, who comes in from Richmond, have a great life and get lots of love too!
This morning the funky Mush-Rush people weren’t there – they always enjoy a chat about the pretty mushrooms they grow. Last time I bought the pink oysters, but I usually get shitake and some of their powdered dried mushrooms which turn lentil stew into something sensational.
You could get really delicious vetkoek if you wanted to, but instead I enjoy saying ‘nihao’ to the Chinese ladies and fill my containers with butternut fritters and spinach & ginger dumplings. They make their own tofu, grow beansprouts and sometimes wonderful yard long snake beans, and sell noodles too. xie xie.
I forget where the chap next door grows his veg, although he has told me before. Today the variety is huge – peppers and aubergines too- so I think he must farm towards Durban. He always trusts me to add up and says “it doesn’t matter, forty rand is a lot of money for me” when I say I may not be that great at adding. Another man, who had loads of rhubarb today (and often great piles of fresh beans to pod) weighs everything on a lovely old fashioned scale. He’s got quite a collection.
Most people buy fresh cut flowers, and I do too sometimes, for very special occasions – it’s a colourful stall. You could get nuts and seeds and plants and meat and dog biscuits and cakes and nougat and bread and samoosas and fruit if you wanted to. I can’t understand why everyone in ‘Maritzburg isn’t there. Many people bring their dogs along too. It’s a jolly friendly affair. It is nice to see familiar faces and I always see my friend Des – which is a treat.
Then, all laden down, I take my bags to the car. Car guard, Richard, greets me by name and rushes over to help me carry. He is very proud that the big sleek vintage Rolls Royce always parks in his section (I wonder who it belongs to?). Every week he has a joke to share – today it was “what do you get when you cross an elephant with a fish?” – Swimming Trunks! “Ta ra”, he calls out cheerfully as I head off home to wake Paul with some Chinese nibbles and think up ways to use the mountain of food I have bought. Especially, as I have already brought broad beans, peas, artichokes and cavalo nero with me from my garden in the country! Luckily the dogs love broccoli (and chinese snacks) too.
If you are ever in ‘Maritzburg on a Saturday morning, don’t miss the market from 6.30 until about 9.30 in Alexandra Road. Fresh food, in season, recently picked and sold by the farmer (mostly). Doesn’t get much better than this.