It is not a quiet affair. Set foot near it, and a dozen hands will reach out offering you things. "Nutmegs, nutmegs" you will be told, "Spices, spices" (nothing is ever said once). Much is familiar. There are bananas in abundance (but when is a banana a banana, and when is it plantain, or green fig, or bluggoe?) Tomatoes and cabbage look reassuringly normal, but what are the inflated light green hedgehogs? (Answer: soursops, from which a wonderful drink can be made.) And the huge assortment of vast hairy potatoes? (They could be yams, or sweet potatoes, or dasheen, or tannia, or...)
Even familiar fruits do not always look as they should. Cucumbers are abbreviated. Grapefruit are undecided about being yellow, settling for dirty greenish-yellow instead. (And they are much nicer than the flawless yellow ones you get at home.) Oranges are quite likely to be Seville, delicious for jam, less so for eating raw. Limes, guavas, nutmegs (yes, nutmegs!) and passion fruit can all be confused. Avocados are called 'pears', and are as likely to be purple as green.Look for what you eat in your hotel. You must have had callaloo soup. Did your fruit salad contain carambola (also used for cleaning brass?) Was the soup thickened with okra? Do you know an unsliced pawpaw when you use it?
Be daring. If they are in season, try french cashews, or sugar apples (looking like light green hand grenades.) The little fat bananas (rock fig) are delicious. Golden apples (not golden, and nothing like apples) are good, but beware the built-in dental floss.You need to watch your step: the ground is not even, and seldom visible: it is not a place for wheelchairs. Determined vendors somehow manage to push supermarket trolleys full of carrots, drinks and toilet paper around, seemingly eternally.
Sunsation does tours to / of the market, and adds a look at Fort George.
(written & photos by Ian Blaikie -
Big Market photo courtesy of Mr. Niermann