Back to the markets…

Hey folks, before I start a ‘real’ job (ugh, I can’t believe I just did that), I am doing a little bit of events work and blogging for one of my favorite local city magazines in town. Not that I’m biased or anything.

Fruit Stand

Check out my recent entry on…surprise! Market finds!

By the way guys, fresh raw dates are my new favorite fruit. Do these exist in the U.S.?

Mango Fever

Mangoes are SO GOOD right now. Seriously, of all things that we’re able to get and do and genetically modify in Northern America, why hasn’t anyone tried to tackle the perfectly ripe, perfectly sweet, perfectly juicy Tanzanian mango?!

IMG_0602 It’s been mango season since December, and they’re (thankfully) still going strong. Though, I heard March is the start of peach season in Dar, something that I’m very curious about, given the fact that I haven’t seen any peaches since I’ve been in town.


ZANZIBAR DAY 3 >> Sugar and Spice…Everything Nice

cocoa beans

A visit to Zanzibar certainly wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a spice farm, now wouldn’t it?

On our bus ride to Abeid’s Spice Farm, I conjured up my own image of a spice farm in my head. What I saw was a Napa Valley-like setup, with trees and bushes planted in neat little rows throughout rolling hills. In my mind, this farm was perpetually fixed to one time: sundown.

bees, maybe?

Goodness knows what I was thinking. This is Africa, after all. So when we pulled up to a plot that could not have looked more uninteresting or unspectacular, and rather sparse, I was a little bit disappointed. There were trees, but they looked like….trees. There were bushes, but….they were just bushes. No neat little rows, and definitely nowhere near sundown, womp womp.

Our first stop out of the bus was to try a papaya. Great, I thought. This is going to be REAL exotic (cue eyes rolling to the back of my head).

Annatto- cluster

But from there, we moved onto a tree with odd clusters of fuzzy fruit pods. Annatto. And then I knew things were going to get better.

You see, I happen to know a bit about the annatto tree. I once worked in a cheese shop, and at this cheese shop we sold Beemster Cheese. Beemster’s XO Gouda is a typical dutch-style hard cow’s milk cheese, made by a co-op of small farmers and exported all around the world from the Beemster Polder in The Netherlands. This Beemster XO is not only made from happy and healthy cows, but it’s famously aged for 26 months. As a result, it’s deliciously firm and full of flavor, reminding me of a salty butterscotch or a good salty toffee (don’t knock it ’til you try it!)

But I digress. Annatto. The deep, saturated orange-ish color in Beemster, the one that most cheeselovers assume is due to its 2 years of aging, is actually due to a natural dye…called Annatto. Beemster orange. I’ve been enamored by annatto for quite some time, especially after learning that it’s a natural dye used in foods like cheese (one that I love so much, to boot), and a dye so vibrant that many women once used it to color their lips and cheeks.

Annatto- split and seeds

After the annatto tree, my worries of a boring afternoon were very quickly put to rest. From there, I got to taste pepper, straight from a tree- so peppery. I sucked on the bark of a cinnamon tree. Like, straight from the tree- into my mouth! I watched someone wash their hands with the berry from a tree that, like magic, lathered and cleaned like soap. I gnawed on lemongrass, sniffed fresh cloves and allspice, mashed curry leaves between my fingers, learned that each pineapple plant only produces a single pineapple fruit (and after 9 long months, geez), and unrooted bright yellow tumeric roots from the ground.


curry leaves


Though I imagine this would be an interesting trip for almost anyone, I gained particular joy from seeing where many of the spices I use so frequently in all my cooking come from. Spices that I am so familiar in their dried form, suddenly given life and a completely foreign appearance as berries, trees, bushes, plants, fruit.


In between this spicefest, we cleansed our palates by eating the papaya, gorging on jackfruit- a fruit that I swear tastes like Juicyfruit gum (and is now my new favorite treat), feasted on the fresh meat and juice from coconuts. We freshened our stinky bodies by rubbing ourselves with the ylang ylang flower. A flower that, I kid you not, smelled so similar to the beloved Chanel No. 5 scent. The farm keepers made the women bracelets and ice-cream-cone-like-baskets out of sturdy leaves and fronds (I was one lucky recipient of a pair of leaf glasses) and the men received sultan-worthy headcaps. We trampled around the farm like young girls and boys on an exploratory adventure.



It was like the Willy Wonka of farms, where everywhere you turned there was a bite to be taken or a lick to be had. I was just waiting for a river of curry to come bursting through, is all. More often than not, I would look down and find myself juggling a piece of some fruit in one hand, focusing my camera with another, being ordered to smell something that had been stuck under my nose, and trying to keep a collection of berries and leaves and seeds from being spilled. Somehow I also managed to take notes and snap iPhone pics too, and looking back I’m almost positive I won’t ever be able to multitask quite as well as I did on that day. I don’t think my senses will, either- by the end of the tour my head was dizzy from smells and tastebuds tingling from spice.



At the market in Zanzibar

How many posts do you think I’ve got now, that are titled “at the market”? Probably a few dozen, at least. The Zanzibari market was bustling, busy, nothing short of thrilling, and unlike the Kariakoo Market in downtown Dar es Salaam, I felt like I could move around without being jostled or hustled too much.

Selling Fish in Zanzibar

Fishy As with most island cultures, fish reigns supreme. We saw only one butcher area – in the back, hidden from most of the front activity. Though, I suppose it’s a combination of this island culture AND Muslim culture, where strict butchering practices MUST be practiced.

spinach cucumbers and some feet. bananas The fruits and vegetables here looks ripe, plump, green, colorful, and healthy. Which begs the question, why can’t I seem to find these in Dar…? Also noticeably different was the lack of dust everywhere. At the markets in Dar, a thin blanket of rust-colored dust covers everything – people, animals, baskets, vegetables, shoes, and self. At the market in Zanzibar, they seem to have their dust under control!


Eggs Seeing this egg guy reminds me. Guys, our second chicken has finally begun to lay eggs! News of the month, surely.

These next two images were the most fascinating at the market in Zanzibar- set apart from the usual sightings of piled vegetables, rice, and fish. The first were these big drums of milk on carts. Coconut milk or goats milk, I still don’t know, but I’m almost (almost) positive that it can’t be cow’s milk. Poured out of spigots and sold in used plastic bottles, these guys were scattered throughout the strip of vendors.


Bread And then there was this. A mountain of bread, the size and shape of what we know as a pound cake. In case you didn’t know, the DiploMan and I are on the Whole30 diet at the moment (i know, i know, the most inopportune time ever. Tell me about it). So seeing these little golden loaf pyramids were like seeing bars of gold stacked atop one another.

I’m still not quite sure of how bread plays into the diets of the Zanzibarians, but seeing that there were almost as many bread vendors as vegetable vendors, I figure it’s something significant, and I’m dying to find my answer.

So there you have it, a market in Zanzibar. My collection of world markets is becoming quite numerous! To see recaps of my recent South African market experiences, click over to these entries: The Boeremark and The Hazel Street Food Market. Or to view a few other markets all over the world, go HERE.




Street Melons

Heyo, how was your weekend? Mine flew by, filled with good eats and fun times. I know I’ve been saying this for awhile now, but our time here in Guangzhou is really coming to an end now- less than 10 days left!!

The weather has been great lately: clear skies and bright sunny days, and shoot, I don’t know if my body has acclimated to the humidity, but it just doesn’t seem as hot as it was last year! Vendors have set themselves up close to our house, selling coconuts and huge slices of melons, for any passer-by wishing to beat the heat. I’m always tempted to try these luscious looking fruits, particularly the huge slices of melons that are sold on sticks.

Pineapple Man in Phuket

Pineapples were everywhere in Phuket. Tiny pineapples, the size of your outstretched hand. Peeled in spiraled formation and sliced whole, the fruit did not need to be cored, because the core was so tender you could eat the whole thing.

This pineapple man was selling really tiny ones right outside our hotel. Look how small they are!!