“UPMARKET” is an appropriate name of a bustling little outdoor mart offering mainly fresh produce each Wednesday and Saturday mornings in Harare’s Belgravia suburb.
Previously I’d only visited towards lunchtime when many stalls had been cleaned out of goods and indeed some dismantled with the temporary stallholders on their way home.
On Wednesday I went before 9:30am but already Peter Piper’s Pickles, operated by the amiable Peter Rosenfels, a pre-land invasions farmer from Marula, Matabeleland South, had sold out of large fresh eggs for which disappointed gourmet shoppers were clamouring.
Apart from the eponymous pickles, Peter also takes orders for farm lamb and sells a wide range of goods including fruit and vegetable cordials, chutneys, jams and curds. Most of us have heard of lemon curd, but he also had raspberry, lime, tangerine and granadilla curds.
World-wide nowadays, no one can sell the famous Melton Mowbray pork pies unless they were actually baked in that picturesque town in Leicestershire’s fox-hunting territory. But, just like the Australians selling non-Portuguese Port as Starboard, Peter bakes his in a leafy northern Harare suburb and calls them Melton Mandara pies!
Everywhere, the visitor is offered snippets of this and bits of that to sample, a shooter glass of rhubarb cordial. Braai stands go full blast and the heady aromas of sizzling bacon, sausages and burgers fill the air.
Doreen Badze tells me about a range of green vegetables she offers. I don’t recognise many of them and ask if hers is a West Indian accent. “No”, she says, but she lived in the USA for a decade: that may explain her “twang”. She brought American seed back to a plot in Greendale and offers such well-grown items as red mustard (which would look good in a mixed salad) and seeds and seedlings.
A young lady selling breads which smell like a dream from yesteryear tells more disappointed punters the ciabatta is already finished and everything else is selling fast.
I admire a stall packed with Afrikaans-style milk tarts, rusks and savoury muffins, then the daughter, clutching a babe-in-arms runs after me, begging me not to mention the family name or use their pictures.
People I’ve never met greet me by name and insist I have a nibble of this, a bite of that a swig of the other; others seems to think I may be spying for Zimra! And shy away from the lens.
I admire Lebnah Lebanese cream cheese and Sango natural yoghurt. Most products are natural or organically grown, unadulterated and free of preservatives. Chia Seeds will improve my sex life or was that Goji Berries on the same stall?
There are Ethiopian specialities, including traditional njera breads; Portuguese chorico (and almond cakes!), Welsh bara brith (a fruity teacake glazed in honey) at a stall where I can also order cuts of young goat.
A pal of mine swears by samoosas sold there, but I spot three stalls offering similar Indian graze. Fruits, vegetables and nuts appear freshly-picked.
In addition to foodstuffs there are antiques and collectables on sale; I seem to recall book stalls in the past (but not last Wednesday); there are fabrics and fresh flowers.
Upmarket at 12, Maasdorp Avenue, Belgravia/Alex Park is extremely popular with the northern suburbs cognoscenti. I had to park 150 metres away from the gate, passing many Corps Diplomatique vehicles.
The day was hot and sunny, but stallholders and their choice edibles are in deep shade. After wandering around for an hour, I was glad to take the weight off my feet next door at Bottom Drawer Coffee Shop, with a nice pot of rooibos tea.
Story and pictures by Dusty Miller