(Video at bottom of page)
Going to the farmer’s market is on my list of must-do chores a few times each week. And since it’s such a beautiful, sunny day, I put on my shoes, grabbed my empty produce bag and headed out the door.
Farmer’s markets are a big deal, here in Lisbon. In the US, many people buy enough produce to last for weeks at a time. Storing it in the fridge, the cellar, the back porch – wherever it will keep the longest without rotting. In Europe, since the access is much greater, it seems like people tend to buy fresh produce more often. It really works out well for me since my European refrigerator is lacking in cubic feet! But, I must confess; I’ve come to immensely appreciate the freshness of the ingredients when preparing meals.
One of the things I need to get used to, the Portuguese growing season. I was talking with a few farmers, here, and they explained how they need to plant tomatoes and peppers in January to yield the best crops. Other crops such as beans, cukes and of course the item that I most wanted to pick up, basil, are not yet available. 😦
There are a few markets within my walking distance. I prefer the Mercado Biological do Principe Real, because the produce is all organically grown. It’s about a mile walk up the hill to the neighborhood, Principe Real. The market is set up in a neighborhood park called, Jardim do Principe Real, (in English – the Principe Real Garden), and it’s operates from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, every Saturday, all year round. It’s a beautiful, well manicured, lush public garden with an huge, iconic cypress tree at it’s center. There’s a nice playground for the children, and frequently, various public events are held here.
The last time I was here, I saw this amazing looking white asparagus. That evening, I did a little research and found a delicious sounding recipe. So, in the bag you go white asparagus! (UPDATE: The baked parmesan asparagus was incredible!)
Just like any farmer’s market, there are a variety of homemade products. Breads, soups, sauces, all kinds of goodies just waiting for me, beckoning for me to try! Today, I picked up some French garlic soup that should be a nice evening meal, maybe tomorrow. For those interested, the video below has footage of the vendor reading the ingredients. (UPDATE: The soup was phenomenal! I actually doctored it up a little by frying up some bacon bits and adding them. A great flavor combination!)
Also, on the list, some HEAT! A big, healthy handful of eye watering, air sucking, red hot, Portuguese chili peppers, which I have found enhances all recipes known to man. Tread lightly, these aren’t for the novice!
As I walked from table to table, inspecting the lot, a small rectangular can caught my eye and immediately, I realized that I’ve been in Portugal for 4 months and I haven’t had one of their cuisine’s signature foods yet – sardines! They had original and spicy. Guess which one I chose! Get in the bag, spicy! (UPDATE: Wow! Those were great!)
A few more items and my bag was full and I was ready for the one mile trek back… this time, downhill!
In my first sentence of this post, I referred to this twice weekly ritual as a must-do chore. Although, it is, “must-do,” it just doesn’t resemble or feel like a chore in any way. Fact is, I love the walk up to Principe Real and the other local fresh produce markets in the area. I love interacting with the people, even though there aren’t many out and about, presently, under the circumstances. It’s just so hard to describe a completely different way of life. Simple. Healthy. Beautiful. Friendly. Easy going. All of these and more fit the bill and are part of the allure of Lisbon, and why it’s so easy to fall in love with this city and it’s lifestyle.