Farm-fresh for your table

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/farmfresh-for-your-table/article9146189.ece

Bijal Vachharajani spends a Sunday morning shopping at theFarmer’s Market and is mighty pleased with the expedition’s results.

The promise of fresh vegetables and fruits is one of the few things that I will wake up early on a Sunday morning for. Even as I grumbled to my friend who had suggested the morning expedition, I found myself heading to Nariman Point two Sundays ago for the Sant Shiromani Shri Savta Mali Athavda Bazar, Vidhan Bhavan’s farmer-direct market. The weekly market that has been set up across the State by the Maharashtra State Agriculture Produce Marketing Board.

Of course, I was armed with cloth bags and plenty of change. Since mid-August this year, every week, the lot between the Vidhan Bhavan and Inox theatre is transformed into a bustling bazaar of more than 30 stalls with farmers selling a staggering range of local and seasonal produce.

We joined the throng of people shopping for their weekly veggies, and marveled at the glistening tomatoes, fat sitaphals, fresh cluster beans, and pumpkins the size of Ravana’s head, that jostled for space with mounds of lettuce, stacks of asparagus, and luscious-looking purple cabbage.

Apart from the usual suspects, there was some wonderful indigenous produce. We found some early green mogri (as the Gujaratis call it), which I had last eaten in Delhi. Winter vegetables, these radish pods are spicy: the purple ones add a nice bite to raitas while the green ones are cooked into a vegetable, usually with brinjals. Though, these are just as delicious when eaten alone.

The market also sold fresh kidney beans in their pods, khatta sorrel leaves, and colocasia leaves for patras and stir-fries. We also found wild chikoos and guavas that when sliced open revealed a soft pink flesh. Flowers such as marigolds and asters were also available.

I went back to the Sahyadri Farmers Producer Co. Ltd. stall multiple times for their glorious pesticide-free black raisins, plump and sweet. My friends kept texting me that they also wanted a packet, and so I would return to the stall to buy yet another kilo, while sampling more of the raisins. The same stall promises chemical-free bananas as well, and are considering home delivery in the future. Another farmer who stocked garlic showed us how to plant the pod to grow it.

The haul from the market was a reassuring one, given that just the other day, my friends and I were bemoaning the lack of good produce available in our bazaars. The prices at the Sant Shiromani Shri Savta Mali Athavda Bazar are more than reasonable, and for those tired of the usual apples and bananas, there’s much diversity in the produce available. This is a definitely affirmative step by the government in enabling fair trade, by cutting out the middle men, and letting people buy directly from the farmers.

Don’t forget to carry your own cloth bag though.

The Farmer’s Market is held every Sunday in the parking lot of the Vidhan Bhavan, Nariman Point, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The market enables fair trade by cutting out middle men and letting people buy directly from farmers

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