Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Just came back from a shopping forage to the Slow Food Farmers Market at the Abbotsford Convent.
Must say I was suitably impressed. Some of the fruit and vegetables were cheaper than the supermarket and the great thing was that you could guarantee it was picked or dug up yesterday, ready for market.
A lot of the vegetables are quite reasonably priced.
One stall holder was saying how they used no spraying on their food but they were next door to a producer for one of the large supermarkets (who shall remain nameless-- but it was one of the big two) and their crops were sprayed continually and some of that was floating over the fence.
When I go again I will do things a little differently because when I rocked up at 11.30am (market hours are from 8am until 1pm) a lot of stall holders had sold out of all sorts of yummy things I had planned to buy.
I was really after some free range bacon for example and some organic Greek yoghurt. And I when I turned my back the pearly fleshed mushrooms I'd been eyeing off had all sold out.
This is how I suggest you approach the market given my experience.
Take a quick look around to get your bearings and make a few mental notes.
Skip breakfast at home because as Michelle Coates notes Lentil as Anything, which is onsite, does the "best breakfasts." Unlike the smorgasbord lunches you can order these off the menu. I swear they also have some of the best coffee in Melbourne. The nearby Farm Cafe two minutes walk away down the bike trail is also fantastic.
While you are seated plan your shopping list because there is so much great stuff that you are bound to get carried away.
Concentrate on the fresh vegetables which are amazing. There are all kinds of varieties you just don't see in the shops. For example I bought a bunch of heritage carrots--a medley of red, purplish, orange, pale yellow and white carrots. A lot of the stalls also sold bunches of mixed herbs which is great because it means you have a week's supply for various dishes and not just one herb that you use once and then turns to sludge in the bottom of your crisper.
This mushroom bag keeps supplying you with mushies
Ask questions as you go as most of the stallholders have all kinds of recipes and suggestions right on the tip of their tongue. Most also love a chat. This is "slow food" remember as distinct from "fast food".
There are so many great home-made products that I am afraid I went quite mad. Who could resist a jar of dried fresh raspberry bits to sprinkle over deserts, orange blossom honey, pesto using extra virgin olive oil and a mushroom bag you can keep in the cupboard and which will keep producing oyster mushrooms for three months.
Probably my most delicious purchase was some sun dried peaches from a stall run by Happy Fruit.. They are so juicy and succulent that they shall be doled out like scarce lollies to my family until I can go back and get some more. The owner uses organic fruit and there is a sun-kissed caramelised sweetness to his dried fruits. He also gives plenty of free samples!
This fruit is dried in the sun the ancient Turkish way
There are also a couple of vendors selling plants so you can get inspired and plant a few edibles at home.
There is even alcohol in the form of locally brewed beers and wine.
After you have done the bulk of your shopping you end up at the back, which should be your last port of call, as this is where there are refrigerated goods which in summer need to be rushed home.
There are some wonderful butchers selling grass fed meats (great for paleo people) a fish monger selling smoked atlantic salmon and fresh caviar and a lady with delectable home-made pie. I bought some fennel and free range pork sausages which I am keen to try.
If you don't have to rush off I suggest you use some of your purchases for a picnic. The Abbotsford Convent has some of the best secret gardens in Melbourne and soft lawns where you can spread a picnic. There is also plenty of entertainment on throughout the day. The resurgence of all these fantastic markets is providing lots of work for street entertainers. Time we all slowed down and learned to chill. That said I will rush back next month.