Before moving to Ukraine, we spent almost a decade in Alaska. Alaska has a lot of wonderful places to visit, but a farmers market was not one of them during those years.
Then came Ukraine.
Although Kharkiv had everything you could ever want in a supermarket (minus the customer service), the markets... well, they were WAY more fun.
Ancient babushki with scarf-covered heads sold eggs and local honey. Gruff men stood guard over trucks full of potatoes. Georgians extolled the virtue of their homemade adjika and fresh pomegranate juice. Luba at Tsentralny Rynok had the biggest smile and the best inside info on that week's fruits.
The markets always operated in a state of friendly chaos. Sellers waved you over to try their cherries or tvorog, which would be followed by a nuclear-peace-treaty level of negotiation over the price. I am terrible at haggling but D often relished the challenge ;) One time he got us an awesome deal on pomegranates for an entire winter!
I miss the excitement of these markets, and the way they eventually became familiar. Strange new vegetables, a ludicrous amount of dairy products, vendors who would remember your funny accent from the week before- exploring the market was a good way to spend the afternoon... or wind up with a new member of the household.
I even got used to the meat aisle (but made D do the actual shopping there)-
Now, enter Oregon. (And finally a better camera.)
Portland has a lot of these markets around the town- even hospitals have their own weekly farmers market now! Unlike Kharkiv's markets, which were open 6 days a week, many of Portland's markets rotate for each day of the week. The city center on Mondays, a university on Tuesdays, the waterfront on Thursdays... there's an entire list of markets here.
We've gone to the Portland State campus' Saturday market a few times. It's a beautiful place to walk- green grass, red brick buildings, dozens of benches, even an urban forest- just add fresh veggies and food carts to get practically an entire city to show up!
What's best here? The food carts are a sure bet, judging from the lines that surround them. I like to stock up on unusual vinegars (beet, blueberry, ginger apple pear) and unsweetened cranberry juice. D likes- surprise, surprise!- the Eastern European Sauerkraut and anything that ends with "-berry".
You know what else is good? Fennel (pic to the right). I didn't know what it was until encountering it here.
I also didn't know that if you try to eat every single piece of it, root to tip, then two fennel = too much. We eat it daily and still have a shocking amount left in the back of the fridge. Any recipe ideas?
Summer is in full-swing here (gratuitous weather forecast warning)...
... and now that it's finally cooling down, I'm looking forward to getting back outside and wandering around new markets.
If it came down to a battle of Ukrainian market vs Oregonian market, though, I'd pick the Ukrainian one and load up on old favorites. Which market would you pick?
More on Kharkiv's markets:
Central Market (in the snow)
More on Portland's markets:
Hollywood Farmer's Market
Dutch American Market