By Mia McCarthy
I write this sitting on the airplane to Cape Town from Durban, where I have just attended the wedding of a dear friend of mine. The ceremony was nothing short of lovely - a genuine demonstration of gentle love and commitment. Yet, as the plane drones on from my old home in Durban to my current home in Cape Town, I am struck by a singular thought: I’d rather have a tomato than a diamond.
Had you told my younger self that one day I would fawn over aubergines and tomatoes at a farmer’s market the same way that other young people of my generation are fawning over engagement rings and newborn babies, I can’t say that I would have been entirely surprised. As my mother very gently put it, she knew I was bound to live an interesting life.
Passionate home cooks tend to be well-informed about the fresh produce that they use, and there is scarcely a better place to become well-informed about your fresh produce than the Oranjezicht City Farmer’s Market. Unprompted, one of the market’s faithful organisers will wax lyrical about the virtues of that weekend’s seasonal harvest on a loudhailer. It’s like having a zealous town crier who only has good news to share. If you’ve ever cared to learn about the myriad kinds of tomatoes you can buy, the market is the place for it. Pearl tomatoes are the size of a blueberry and, when eaten fresh, pop in the mouth with a satisfying splash of sweet acidity. Beefsteak tomatoes come in the most astounding shapes and sizes. They display a delicate, intricate design, like latticework when cut open. San Marzano plum tomatoes are oval-shaped and, like many Italian exports, are best enjoyed served with fresh ciabatta, flaky salt, chopped basil, and a generous glug of olive oil.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the OZCF Market is that they source from small-scale local farmers. Charmingly, many of these farmers have specialised interests, and it shows in the produce that crops up at the market. In winter, you might encounter truly fantastic fruit and veg. A few weeks ago, the buddha hand citrus made its short-lived appearance on the shelves. The fingered citron is shaped, as you might imagine, like an otherworldly hand. It produces no flesh, but the heavenly fragranced skin can be used in a few ways in the kitchen. Grate and dry the peel to make lemon salt, brew it in hot water for a delicious tea, add it to soups and curries for a delightful citrus kick, or simply allow it to fragrance your home.
Now is also the time for romanesco broccoli. This chartreuse wonder is renowned for its fractal form. Amazingly, the number of spirals on the heads of a romanesco is always a Fibonacci number. Only in the abundant aisles of the market are you confronted with such complex maths and the astounding wonder of nature!
But the true star of the fresh produce cornucopia is the Violetta aubergine, which comes into season during our autumn period. You can read how much I love and adore the Violetta aubergine (and how to use it in a melanzane recipe!) on the Life & Style blog.
The OZCF Market