Slow Food Market, with the season turning

Melbourne is in fine form today.  As we left for the market, it was drizzling, but by the time we were halfway there, the sun was shining so brightly that Andrew was making plaintive remarks about sunglasses.  But it started raining again not long after we reached the market… which might explain why it was a little less crowded than usual and there was NO QUEUE FOR THE TIVOLI ROAD BAKERY STALL.

Seriously, you have no idea how rare this is.  In fact, I’ve never been to the Tivoli Road Bakery stall at that market, because the queues are usually so long that I haven’t even bothered looking to see which stall it was – I am fickle, and I’m really not at the market to stand in queues, especially with so much glorious produce on display elsewhere…

Having realised that this was, indeed, a queueless Tivoli Road Bakery stall, we interrupted our first circuit of the market to get right in there and grab some salted caramel donuts and jam donuts.  Because Tivoli Road Bakery donuts are not to be ignored.

donut

I always forget how big the slow food market is – about twice the size of the other markets we go to, I think, with the stalls all nestled along different pathways in the convent grounds.  It’s a very beautiful market, and it generally takes me about thirty seconds to become over-stimulated and start talking incredibly fast and dashing around the market like a hyperactive meerkat.  Or something.  I have no idea what that metaphor was about.

(Evidence suggests that this is why all the stallholders remember me.  And they are obviously very polite people, because I’ve never seen any of them brace when they see me coming, either…)

Anyway, markets at this time of year tend to double the crazed overstimulated Catherine factor because they have ALL THE PRODUCE.  Late summer is the best for fruit and vegetables, with all those wonderful mediterranean vegetables, and berries, and stonefruit, and rhubarb, and just everything, but also the start of autumn fruit and veg as well.  (I actually wholly ignored the latter because the peppers and the eggplants  and the red onions were just so *shiny*.)

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This is where I have to apologise for the quality of today’s photography – the light is very bad today, because the clouds are quite low, and this does nothing good for my photographs.

Best of all, on a day like this, the weather is cool enough that I can actually enjoy the market trip.  And I mean trip in every sense of the word, because I’m not quite tired enough to be hallucinating, but I’m getting pretty close…

In fact, our first stop was not the bakery, but the raspberry stall.  While it is always my intention to do a complete circuit of the market before buying anything, I have learned from bitter experience that it does not pay to wait and come back for the raspberries.  They will not be there when you come back.  And failing to buy raspberries in season is nothing less than a tragedy.

rasp

I had a nice chat with the raspberry man about my own raspberry bush, which is producing leaves but not much of anything else.  He hypothesised a lack of bees, so then I had to explain that, in fact, I knew very well that the bees had been in that garden bed, as evidenced by the fact that my pumpkin vine is growing melons.  Speaking of which, the first one was ready for harvest yesterday, along with a few of its tomatoey friends:

garden

I think we can all agree that this is not a delicata squash.

But I digress.  It’s that sort of day.  We bought our raspberries, and moved on, only to get captured by the irresistible field of Take Me Home Pasta stall.  I’m expecting a couple more weeks of Grant Hell, which means it’s a good time for gnocchi, which produce a good meal with very little effort on my part.

gnocchi

Felicity and I then spent about ten minutes cheerfully gossiping about the country town that she grew up in and where my father’s family still lives – we’re pretty sure she knows some of my cousins, and she definitely knows my great-uncle’s Italian bakery.  I may not actually be related to every Italian immigrant family in that particular town (though it certainly felt that way when I was little, and I’m still not always sure which are honorari Zii and which are actual relatives), but the families do all tend to know each other…

It was starting to pour again, so we tore ourselves away from this fascinating discussion and moved on to investigate the rest of the market, before embarking on a slower, more intent circuit.

The first stop on our second round was of course the Sunny Ridge Farm stall, because I had been dreaming of their sparkling strawberry muscat for weeks, really.  I very rarely drink, but I love the intense, true, strawberry flavour of this wine.  Andrew was interested in apple mint cider, so we got some of that too.  And some strawberries, of course…

wine

Opposite Sunny Ridge’s stall was a vegetable stall selling all sorts of heirloom tomatoes, with names like Stupice, Hillbilly, White Wonder and Japanese Black Trifele, which I do not need, because my tomatoes are coming along beautifully.  Or they will do if Melbourne gives them just a week more of warm weather, please, Melbourne, be kind?

stupice

On the other hand, my zucchini plants are once again failing to take over the world, so I did need some stripy zucchini.  And some Chinese broccoli, a rarity at the markets I usually go to.  And some beautiful red carrots…

Oh, alright, and some heirloom tomatoes, too.  One tomato party coming right up…

zucch

The potato stall was selling pink fir apple potatoes again.  Enough said.

The potato-winged carrot fly is a common pest in Australian gardens.  While these flies are rarely seen in action, their presence is frequently made evident by the presence of weird hybrid fruit and vegetable crosses in infested gardens.  Some agricultural scientists in fact attempt to cultivate these insects by leaving out small saucers of honey mixed with vegemite and apricot jam, a combination that is known to appeal to these insects, probably for its salty-sweet nature.  This can be a cause of acrimony for neighbouring farmers, who suddenly find their peach trees sprouting broccolicots or zucchuinces, neither of which are saleable to the average market-goer. Though, actually, I'd try them...

The potato-winged carrot fly is a common pest in Australian gardens. While these flies are rarely seen in action, their presence is frequently made evident by the presence of weird hybrid fruit and vegetable crosses in infested gardens. Some agricultural scientists in fact attempt to cultivate these insects by leaving out small saucers of honey mixed with vegemite and apricot jam, a combination that is known to appeal to these insects, probably for its salty-sweet nature. This can be a cause of acrimony for neighbouring farmers, who suddenly find their peach trees sprouting broccolicots or zucchuinces, or even banamangcorn, none of which are saleable to the average market-goer.
Though, actually, I’d try them…

Actually, not quite enough said.  I’m pretty sure that dinner is going to be a lovely pan full of sliced potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions and basil cooked in a little olive oil, and maybe served with garlicky cannelini beans.  Yum…

I was then drawn irresistibly to a stall selling huge boxes of orange-red peppers for $16.  Utterly beautiful!

peppers2

However, since I’m off to work shortly to read grants and will be choiring all day tomorrow, I wasn’t really in a position to make a project of roasting them and freezing them for later, as suggested by the stallholder.  Instead, I made do with some beautifully shiny little eggplants, a bag each of red and yellow long peppers, and a handful or red onions.

peppers

Next to this stall was a mushroom stall.  I’m not really in the mood for mushrooms this week, but mushroom jerky sounded fascinating, so I bought some for snacking.

jerky

And then we saw Rita and her family!  So lovely to see them again – we don’t get to Flemington as often now that Coburg is so close and so frequent, and I’ve missed them.  I celebrated with zucchini flowers.

flowers

I rarely buy veggie burgers, partly because I make very good ones myself, but mostly because they are usually far too salty.  Larder Fresh, however, makes truly delicious vegan burger concoctions, which are pleasingly no higher in salt than my own – so once again, I considered my upcoming workload and bought something to make dinner easier…

burger

Rhubarb is irresistible, and Di of Di’s Rhubarb was quick to explain that hers is particularly good, very sweet and juicy, because it is a longer-growing variety than the usual backyard kind, and the stalks are tiny and deep red.  (The second half of this might have been my own motivation rather than Di’s explanation…!)

rhubarb

Another feature of Slow Food for me is always the dairy section.  I’m actually well-stocked with Jonesy’s milk and cream at present (I am trying to reduce my reliance on dairy from supermarket sources, due to concerns about treatment of dairy cattle), but I  picked up some Greek Yoghurt from Schulz Organic, which is always good.

yog

This left me rather beyond broke – in fact, I’d been borrowing money from Andrew’s stash for the last few stalls, but that didn’t mean I could leave the market without sausages.  Again, it’s the call of the No Brainer Dinner Option that I currently can’t resist.  And I love sausages with chinese broccoli and pasta and chilli at the moment…

sausage

And home, for a lot of photography, a worryingly late lunch, now I look at the time, and then into work for a few hours to read grants, it being that sort of time.

I should let you know that things have actually got busier at work (and there have been some less-than-fun developments both there and outside work, just to make life more interesting), and I’m using a lot of my spare mental energy right now on trying to compose essays and letters to politicians about the refugee situation, because I’m finding our policies and their results deeply upsetting.  So I’m afraid this blog will probably continue to be fairly quiet for a bit.  My political blog, however, is likely to see a certain amount of action, just because I can’t stop thinking about this stuff, and I think best out loud.

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Hopefully, things will settle down soon – it’s been a truly horrid month – and I can return you to your scheduled program of cakes, cakes and more cakes…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One year ago: Review: High Tea at The Langham Hotel

Two years ago: Provençal Vegetable Soup with Pistou

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4 Responses to Slow Food Market, with the season turning

  1. Hi Cate, I am a huge fan of your market post and I would to shop more at farmers market though I am worried about the cost. Currently I shop at Victoria Market for my veggies, fruits, chicken, eggs and fish. I was wondering how much do you spend on your market trips? Thanks!

    • Hi Felicia,

      The short answer is way too much! The long answer is that usually I take $120-$150 with me and I spend it. This gets me all my fruit and veg for the week (household of two, but we have dinner guests at least once a week, sometimes more), eggs, often meat, and various goodies such as sourdough bread, gnocchi, crumbed artichokes, cheese, pies, and so forth. But before you get intimidated by that, it’s important to be aware that, first, my food budget tends to be ridiculous because I feel compelled to feed people all the time, and second, the farmers’ markets are a bit of an indulgence for me – almost a hobby, at this point! On weeks when I only buy fruit and veg and nothing that has added labour built into it (jam, pastry, cakes), I spend well under $100. Right now, those weeks are few, because work is insane, I keep forgetting to buy meat from my usual supplier, Simply Free Range (which is free range but comparable with supermarket prices), and because I really do tend to go, oh, goody, I have money left, I need a TREAT.

      If I’m honest, these weeks only happen when I send Andrew with a list, rather than going myself and being distracted by the beautiful, beautiful food…

      In terms of budget, I think that if you buy your fruit and veg at the Victoria markets and are not buying organic, you are probably paying less for your fruit and veg than I am. If you are buying organic, you are almost certainly paying more. I’ve never bought meat from the markets, so I can’t give you a comparison for that.

      If you are worried about cost, but want to support farmers directly, you could consider going to a Farmers’ Market one morning with a small amount of your food budget in hand (and I do suggest going early – a lot of things sell out by midday or even earlier), and just buying a portion of your vegetables there, and seeing whether the prices compare. I can currently afford to indulge my passion for farmers market food, but I do know that this is a luxury – many of my friends use the supermarket for their main shopping, but buy a few special things at the market every fortnight.

      I’m sorry, you probably wanted a figure, and you got an essay. I hope some of it was helpful!

      Catherine

  2. Hi Catherine! Thanks for such a detailed reply, I really appreciate it and I love reading, so it did not feel like an essay to me :) Hmm, seeing that I am only shopping for one and only buying veggies, fruits and perhaps eggs from the markets, spending a bit more at the farmers market won’t hurt my pocket, especially if I sacrifice a weekend dinner out or limit myself to just one coffee a day. I like the idea of buying food straight from the source and I don’t want to eat eggs/chicken that are raised from battery hens, therefore I have been exploring more options. Which are your favourite markets to go to? I have been to Collingwood Children’s farm market and St Kilda and loved them both!

    • Yay! Yes, I forgot to mention that we basically don’t eat out (because I get cross when I eat out somewhere and I can cook better – and we can’t afford the sorts of places where it’s guaranteed that I can’t…), so the market budget is a larger portion of our overall food budget than it might be.

      We tend to go to Coburg, because it is close, and Flemington, because it’s weekly. Both are very good. Fairfield is a bit of a favourite, though it’s further afield, because it has a really good mix of stalls, and Slow Food is fantastic, but it’s also huge and I have this tendency to want to buy something from everyone, which just isn’t possible there. We haven’t tried St Kilda, since we are on the north side of town, but it’s on our agenda. And I keep meaning to investigate Bundoora and Eltham and the other markets up that way. One fun thing about being a market regular is you get to know which groups of stallholders attend which markets – most pick one side of the Yarra and don’t cross it. Though sometimes we wind up following a particular stallholder around a circuit for a month – generally by accident. I think the blueberry people thought we were stalking them for a while…

      (Why yes, I am slightly obsessed and in love with my farmers’ markets, can you tell?)

      Regarding the eggs, I am entirely with you! I’ve always bought free range from the supermarket, and then I bought my first batch from a farmers’ markets – and discovered that all the egg yolks are different shades of yellow, unlike the supermarket free range kind. I found this rather unsettling, and pretty much avoid using eggs unless I can get them from markets now. Another reason to embrace vegan baking!

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