Since the start of the year, I’ve been a regular at my local farmers’ market. It is a sheer delight. The range of vegetables now grown on the islands is mind blowing. As a eulogy to Malta’s farmers, I wrote an article for this month’s Il-Bizzilla (‘Lace’), the in-flight magazine of Air Malta. You can read it here in PDF. I’ve posted up a mere handful of my favourite photos from the day I went down, notebook, pen and camera in hand, not just basket. I’ve started with hands – deep brown, tanned, earthy, and knarled – from young farmer to older, the hands tell stories all by themselves.
The colours I can reproduce, but the banter, and hawk-eyedness of my fellow shoppers I can’t quite capture visually. You have to be there to hear the chat, see the discerning eyes case the mass of stalls to find the very one with the best of the crop. I’ve worked out a bit of a routine now; I buy general veg from one stall, strawberries from another, eggs from yet another, honey from a certain beekeeper and so on.
This is not a one-shop-fits-all approach as you’d get in supermarket shopping. You need to work out which farmer has the best, of say, strawberries, that week. It can depend on which part of the islands they farm. Sun doesn’t shine equally all over Malta, despite the country’s weeny size. My home town, just inland from the cliffs, tends to get a cloudier micro climate than the lower lying resort towns on the other side of the island. Honey from Mellieha won’t be the same as honey from Fawwara. Some flowers flower earlier here and later there and vice versa. The prevailing winds that blast Malta nearly all year round also make a difference.
The heaps of greens, hues and textures of all kinds, and the rainbow of veg and fruit around right now in early spring, is something to behold. I make Tuesdays my regular market stop day. In 15 minutes, I stagger back to the car, weighed down with produce. Then, there’s just the small matter of what to make with it all! I don’t shop with recipes in mind; I cook according to what’s on my Malta market this week. For a taste of the market, read my article ‘Eat a Rainbow’ and learn a little about what goes on and how my fellow shoppers inspire me.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
Ta’ Qali Farmers’ Market is on Tuesday and Saturday mornings from early til around noon. Go first thing for pick of the best; go later and get some throw-away bargains on veg. It’s incredibly good value whatever time you go though.