Ever been to a Greek farmer’s market? If not, come with me and let’s visit one!
The farmer’s market is a “must go” activity in Greece. The shops are set right in the streets and every neighborhood has at least one farmer’s market every week. Rain or shine, metal tables are set under colorful umbrellas and fill with all sorts of delicious produce. Every family shops there (unless they can’t find the time) as the produce comes straight from the producers and the prices are seriously competitive and often much cheaper than in big stores.
Does it get busy? Think “black Friday” busy, every day.
Picture this: the night before the market, there are signs put in the road that will host the market. The signs warn people not to park there as the market starts very early in the morning (even at 6 am in summer) and to generally stay clear so the farmers can park and set their tents.
As early as the sun starts rising, the road fills with busy people setting their tents, tables and produce. They line up on both sides of the road and leave a wide corridor between, for the buyers. The sidewalks are used for storing the extra produce.
Soon after, the first customers come rushing in, looking for the best items and the best price. “The early bird gets the worm” fits perfectly the situation as the earliest customers get the best stuff, being able to choose from the whole lot that is displayed. (But the late birds get lower prices!)
Usually, those early birds are elder people that:
– weren’t partying last night and therefore are willing to get up early
– are used on early risings
– look deceptively fragile but are cunning and determined buyers.
A couple hours in, the market is bustling and it gets really difficult maneuvering between carts, people and bags of groceries. The sellers are shouting their goods and there is often some haggling going on.
My grandma is one of the best hagglers: ever seen a tiny, over 90 years old gal, shaking her fist to a way taller guy (a seller of olive oil), threatening him that “this oil better be good, ORELSE!”? He laughed and acted like he was scared, then he offered to help my grandmother by carrying the heavy metal container (40-42 pounds of olive oil) for her.
The sellers are experienced merchants that are quite interactive and expressive. They will shout and laugh and frown if you try to haggle with items they have “priced to sell”. And they might flirt or tease. They will often invite you to try their produce and sometimes they throw in gifts when you buy something. Like a handful of beans, or a couple of tomatoes.
Or…they just might invite you behind their bench and take a photo of you (which I cropped out because I am shy AND because I had a bad hair day – a really bad one):
I regret not getting more photos of the different kinds of legumes and beans and watermelons and tomatoes and cucumbers and aubergines and kiwis and aaaall the other goodies but, at least I have a few,
Tips to survive the experience at a Greek farmer’s market:
– Go early(-ish)
– Be patient, there will be a lot of pushing with so many people trying to maneuver.
– Smile; works wonders
– Get one of these carts (trust me I went once without it – it wasn’t funny carrying uphill 40+ pounds of produce)
As the day moves on, the prices start to drop because the merchant farmers know most of the heavy shoppers already bought their goods and now is the time to sell their remaining produce and merchandise. On a good day, very little is left.
The best stuff sells early on and any leftovers can be sold at a – significantly – lower price at the end of the day. Frugal shoppers can find great bargains near the closing of the market.
Have you ever been to a farmer’s market in your country or abroad? Did you enjoy it and was it different? Oh and stay tuned because I pulled some – friendly – strings and got myself working at an organic farmer’s market for a whole day! It was a blast. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. 🙂
ps. If anyone wonders, all the prices shown are in euros and they are per kilo (approx 2.2 pounds)!
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