Living in Tel Aviv, I enjoy the flurry of excitement on Friday morning as people dash about to finish up their Shabbat preparations. My highlight of the day—and perhaps the week—is to visit the farmers market at the old Tel Aviv port, known as Shuk HaNamal. The recently renovated port is surrounded by water, with the Mediterranean’s waves frequently crashing onto its boardwalk, and the city’s Yarkon River slices through the landscape at the northern end. It’s dotted with old warehouses converted into trendy restaurants and stores, hi-tech companies’ offices and event venues.
The port is relatively quiet during the week, but blossoms on Friday when the mostly-organic farmers market opens outside of its covered, indoor, permanent shuk (market), which was opened by food celebrity, entrepreneur and slow-food advocate Michal Ansky and some partners in 2010. I’ve gotten to know some of the vendors there from whom I buy each week.
Pomegranates and Figs
In a far corner of the market, there are rows of boxes brimming with vegetables and fruits that are scattered on tables, the ground and the back of a pick-up truck. From yams to green onions to avocados, there’s a rainbow of colors and tastes from this little corner of the market. It’s a family operation called Meshek Shesh, from Kashu, near Beersheva. Although they’re not certified organic, they don’t use pesticides. With such a wide variety of offerings, they delicately balance the constant flow of questions, people picking through the boxes and shoppers heaving loads of produce onto the scale. I purchased lots of deliciously sweet, soft fresh figs and a plump pomegranate for my Tu b’Shevat salad here.
Persimmons and Oranges
Every week, I excitedly come to Keren, a one-woman operation that involves simultaneously and deftly managing orders, answering questions and slicing fruit samples for customers. Standing under a large banner for her stand, which reads Perot Bar Nas (Bar Nas fruits), Keren primarily sells fruit from her father-in-law’s farm. She adds to her offerings with produce from Moshav Bitzaron, near Rehovot, which is not organic, but limited in its use of sprays. Each week her table is loaded with a fabulous array of oranges, avocados, persimmons and the largest pomegranates I’ve ever seen.
Omer, who manages the dried fruit stall, stands before a long stretch of tables filled with an astounding array of dates. Each week, there are fresh zahidi (which taste like caramel), halawi (super sweet) and medjool dates in every stage of sweetness and softness imaginable. He also sells dried dates, date paste, walnut-stuffed dates, coconut-rolled dates and a Nutella-like spread made with dates. He brings all of these dates, as well as dried apricots, apples and raisins, from an organic farm on Kibbutz Ma’agan, near the Sea of Galilee. If you have a sweet tooth, try a zahidi or halawi date instead of products made with refined sugars.
Directly opposite Omer is Saaha, whose stall offers large pots of boiled almonds and chickpeas. and round trays filled with nuts and beans that he roasts in Tel Aviv: salty, sweet, plain. He also has crispy fava beans with lightly salted paper-like skin, roasted and salted walnuts and cashew nuts rolled in a sugar-salt paste. Some nuts are imported (cashews), while others (walnuts) are grown in Israel. The roasted walnuts taste earthy and salty—it’s a unique flavor that is delicious plain as a snack or on salads.
Every week, people from Moshav Shaal in the Golan Heights stand before a flurry of boxes brimming with apples. Though not certified organic, the apples are a far cry from mealy, waxy store-bought apples. They’re crisp, tart and, despite their dimples and blemishes, juicy and delicious.