June 10, 2012

Farmers market with Chinese characteristics

After commenting on a photo showing the fresh produce from a Farmers Market, I received a question worth answering in more detail than a simple reply. The question:

Do you have any open air "farmers markets" in your part of the universe, at least during the warmer months?

The short answer is yes, no, and sometimes. The long answer requires a bit of dissection in order to fully explain my answer to this question for my part of the universe. My part of the universe is China. More specifically, Harbin.

During the warmer months
These are few in Harbin with only about half the year spent above freezing. During the colder months we do all our shopping (and living) inside where it’s heated. We venture outside only when necessary. We have take out delivered and would have groceries delivered if we could read the Chinese website. It’s that cold. For the purpose of this question, we’ll consider the time from Easter to Halloween.

Do you have … open air?
Yes. When the ice melts in early May everything is sold outside in the open air. All the shops move their goods from the heated inside out onto the street. Vegetable and fruit vendors display their produce on make shift tables. Others line the street with a tarp or newspaper and dump veggies out for the picking. Most definitely open air.

Do you have … any farmers markets?
Yes. Throughout the not-so-frozen months trucks park along market street with the day’s haul. Now it’s cherries. Cherries are everywhere. There are so many cherries on market street. And peaches are coming too. We’re at the tail end of strawberry season too. They usually show up around my birthday in April. In the fall it’s truckloads of watermelons, radishes, potatoes, onions, and cabbage. Literally tons of fresh produce.

And no. It seems that a lot of the food here is shipped into Harbin from other provinces. We even have a couple of boxes we’ll use for moving that prove it. Each is labeled “Hebei Pears,” not quite what I would describe as fresh from the farmer.

In a word, yes and no and sometimes.

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