Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To Market, To Market To Buy a Fat...ummm...Radish

Parshat Shelach; Numbers, 13:

23. They came to the Valley of Eshkol and they cut a branch with a cluster of grapes. They carried it on a pole between two [people] and [they also took] some pomegranates and figs.

כג. וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד נַחַל אֶשְׁכֹּל וַיִּכְרְתוּ מִשָּׁם זְמוֹרָה וְאֶשְׁכּוֹל עֲנָבִים אֶחָד וַיִּשָּׂאֻהוּ בַמּוֹט בִּשְׁנָיִם וּמִן הָרִמֹּנִים וּמִן הַתְּאֵנִים:

The spies carrying their grape cluster, from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves

Monday and Thursday have always been market days in the Holy Land, the day everyone came to town to shop and conduct business, and the days the Torah portion for the week was read since everyone was assembled. So it remains in Mitzpe Ramon where Monday is Tourist Market Day. Vendors come and set up their wares in the market center near our apartment. The market is covered with a cantilevered metal roof, and the goods are laid out on stone platforms underneath. There are more vendors than tables available, so they lay out their goods under makeshift tents and desert covers that keep out the sun.

The tourist market in Mitzpe Ramon

The clothes and other tschatshkies for sale are rather disappointing, but the food, especially the fruits, vegetables and nuts, are outstanding and cheap. I was surprised at the size of some of the fruits and vegetables, reminding me of the biblical passage of the Meraglim (spies) and their grape cluster that was so large it had to be carried between two men on a pole.

Giant radishes

Baseball bat size leeks

Man-eating celery

Above we see giant radishes, the largest of which is the size of a bocchi ball, giant leeks the size of a baseball bat, and man-eating size celery. There were no grapes, so I couldn't tell if they had to be carried in on a pole between two men.

The colors, textures, and smells of all the foods were wonderful. The vegetables also still had soil on their roots, so it was very much a connection to living things and a reminder of where our food actually comes from. Let's look at some of the wonderful vegetables and fruits that were available:


Root vegetables


The white potatoes were very interesting. Creamy on the inside, but the outside skin was quite tough, and the dots on the skin puffed up and became quite hard after cooking. Although I usually eat potato skins, I skipped these.

These carrots were the size of a baton

Colorful fruits, note the succulent strawberries at the top

Gourd, perhaps a pumpkin?

At all of the outdoor markets it is common to see this gourd for sale by the slice. This is actually a small one. It kind of looks like a pumpkin, but also kind of not.

My favorite stall was the one selling nuts and grains from all over, together with the freshest dried fruits and dates I have ever had. These were not hard and smelling of cardboard, like dried fruits in the US, but soft and juicy.

The grain and fruit stall at the Tourist Market

The grains and nuts just glowed in their sacks in the sunshine, and I couldn't resist taking their pictures.

Grains, nuts, corn and peas

Rice and peppers

Brown rice

Pam with bags of nuts

I couldn't resist buying the almonds with the various raisins, which made a delicious lunch for the rest of the week -- roisin mit mandelen (?)

Some of the tented stalls had quite an elaborate set-up for displaying and selling clothes. This one had a portable dressing room where you could sequester yourself to try on clothing and then check your appearance in the mirror.

Pam checks things out in "Macy's of the Negev"!

And then there are the truly useless displays of second-hand and cast-off things that seem to show up at every flea market.

Second hands and cast offs at the market

But we will look forward every week to buying our fruit and vegetables at the tourist market in Mitzpe Ramon.

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