Sunday, January 3, 2010

Market value

Hi folks. A recent trip to Australia, and the food emporia thereof, reminded me that the very southern part of the world I live in is a culinary white-bread wasteland. Sure, you can get good coffee, decent Kalamata olives and quality chorizo, if you look hard enough, but you will pay through the fundament and will have less range than a plug-in electric car. However, there is one shining light, gleaming like a stream of bat's piss in the darkness, amongst the dour Scottish Presbyterianism of the deep south's palate. I think I strained a metaphor there. The one shining light is the markets.

Here I'm not talking about the sort of markets besmirched by cheap tat, random shite, tawdry trinkets, aura-aligning crystals and dodgy pirated DVDs flogged out of the boot of someone's Datsun Bluebird. I'm talking local produce markets. And in the case of D-Town, the Otago Farmers Market at the magnificent old railway station. Of course, fresh produce is old hat if you, for argument's sake, have a farm. But for the rest of us it's a novelty. And when you have a strength like the local producers of Otago, it's something to be celebrated.

It's simple stuff. New potatoes from Oamaru. Fresh cherries and stonefruit from Central Otago. Berries from Outram. Fresh fish off the boat in Port Chalmers. Free range eggs. Free range pork, lamb and beef. Venison salami. Fresh baked ciabatta. Gourmet pies. Artisan cheese from the factory in Evansdale. Craft beer from Green Man in the old Emerson's brewery in George St. Throw in hot steamed pork buns, grilled lamb kebabs, and bloody good coffee from the mobile van run by the flamboyant French dude, cast to type. Even on a relatively quiet Saturday-after-New-Years morning, with maybe a third of the stallholders absent, there's still a lot of gold. And more than the usual number of carparks. We went home with some farmhouse brie, ciabatta, fresh cherries, strawberries and raspberry jam, Jersey Benne potatoes, and fresh ground Sumatran-Bolivian coffee, all for well under the asking price at NZ Supermarket Of Choice (which, surprisingly enough, is itself less than the asking price at Australian Supermarket Of Choice, based on recent experience.) And the best part: no carneys selling tat. Just lots of good quality, certified local produce. That's almost never a bad thing. We're by no means regulars - usually Saturday morning swim lessons for the lads conspires against attending - but when there, we rarely get away without dropping a decent handful of cash. And rarely regretting any of it.

In short: visit your local farmers market. Unless it's run by carneys selling tat. In which case keep your hands in your pockets and GTFO.

The Doctor is OUT.


  1. Every time i start thinking about the potatoes offered to you people in the southern climes i start drooling in my keyboard. I'd move, but The Wife hates the cold

  2. This makes me want to check out the farmer's market here in my neck of the woods.

    I have always wanted to buy my produce there--who doesn't want fresh produce and to support their local economy?--but everyone says it's so expensive, I just didn't think I could justify the cost.

    But I think I'll give it a go.

    Good post, Doc!

  3. Locally grown new potatoes here are something like $8 for 2kg in the supermarket; $4-5 at the market. Cherries were comparable cost per kg but much bigger, almost like a Kalamata cherry. Coffee was similar price but better, fresher stuff, ground on the day. Generally you either get cheaper or better (or both) produce at the OFM, so our experience is actually the reverse of the preconception Jen mentions.

  4. I hope that's the case here. That would really change my life, to be honest. Or at least alter the way I eat for sure.

  5. Because of the curious way US agriculture subsidies work, good food will always be more expensive than shit food over there - cheaper to process the farque out of it and add buckets of corn syrup. It's really an issue of whether the markets make good food proportionally more affordable I guess.

  6. Sounds delightful, Doc. I frequent the local fresh produce market here in BrisVegas, but it's really more of a retail version of the wholesale fruit and veg market than a farmer's market. Populated by industrious Asian business folks who buy from the markets and sell at a more retail price.

    My gut feeling is it's still about half the price of comparable fruit and veg at Supermarket of Choice.

    There are other things too - beautiful olives stuffed with blue cheese, good homemade sausages, fresh Colombian coffee, but the cheap fruit and veg is the main drawcard.

  7. Yeah there's some process by which the stallholders are vetted here to make sure they are actually growing the stuff they're selling. To be honest it's a no brainer, they basically sell out of their produce vans with their farm locations on the side.