It’s Saturday morning at the Oranjezicht City Market and there are two kinds of people – the socialisers and the shoppers.
The socialisers head straight for the benches. They spend the late morning tucking into flatbreads with prosciutto, pulled-pork rolls and empanadas, sipping on craft beer and having a glorious time.
The shoppers have a different agenda. They arrive before the market opens. They carry large baskets or canvas shopping bags and make a beeline past the prepared meals to the fresh produce where they gather goods.
The mall smells and looks fresher than the local grocery chain, but there’s another advantage to doing your produce shopping at a market: seasonality.
Every item in these wooden crates was grown within the season when it flourishes. It hasn’t been refrigerated and transported halfway across the world. Its taste and nutritional value can testify.
All grocery suppliers used to be like this. As a kid I associated seasons with food. Summer meant sticky peaches and plump apricots, while winter was all about grapefruit sprinkled with castor sugar.
I’m happy I ditched the sugar, but I was disappointed when I spotted my beloved bitter citrus on a shelf last summer.
The further the fruit had to travel to get onto that shelf, the higher its carbon footprint and the fewer pennies the local farmer, who can’t produce a grapefruit in the heat of summer, takes home.
You’ll spot the intruders by looking at the price. If you’re of the sentiment that all food is more expensive anyway, then look at the label. It isn’t necessary to buy that interesting looking dragon fruit. South Africa has a climate that produces a variety of fruit throughout the year. You’ll enjoy that dragon fruit much more on a hammock in South-east Asia, anyway.
Spring just started in South Africa and in this time you can tuck into guava, gooseberries and sweet melon, and contrary to the winter-stygma around citrus, naartjies, oranges and nectarines are still in season. The beloved avocado is also in season, so there’s no need to give up your avo on toast just yet.
Parsnips and turnips will give uninspired mash new life, while beetroot and artichokes will cheer up your roast. Baby marrows are back in season, so rip out that spiraliser and make courgetti bolognese.
If you’re still unsure how to navigate the grocery store with your seasonally conscious cap on, then there’s one more solution. Get yourself an oversized, weaved basket and fill it with anything and everything you see at the markets. Realign your eating pattern with what nature intended.
The Oranjezicht City Market in Granger Bay (Saturdays) and Erf81 in Tamboerskloof (Sundays) sells goods grown on nearby micro farms. It’s seasonal by definition.
Another great option is weekly fruit and vegetable boxes by organisations such as Green Road and Harvest of Hope. The surprise of what you’ll get is half the fun and they deliver to places in town, the northern and southern suburbs, as well as Stellenbosch.