Soon after arriving in Suva, I went to my first American Woman's Association luncheon (AWA) and have since joined. It is a pretty casual group (and you don't have to be American to be a member either). Every month the AWA meets for a lunch. Sometimes it is a potluck, but most months it is at a different restaurant. It allows you to try out different places you might not otherwise encounter or stop at (such as the Cajun restaurant 45 minutes away...probably would not have gone there on a whim...but it was cute and tasty...now I might go back with the hubby).
The AWA does organize some other events, one of which was a tour of the market downtown. So I jumped at the opportunity to go and learn some new things. Richard and I had gone several times, but it is a place we have been warned to be cautious of pickpocketing as it can be very crowded on the weekends. There is an indoor vegetable market that is open Mon-Sat and an outdoor vegetable market that is open Fri & Sat. The outdoor market has farmers from all the small villages from outside Suva come in for the weekend....so you have the best selection of the most fruits and vegetables on Fri & Sat.....as well as the biggest crowds. We met first thing Friday morning, before it got too crowded....it was also a lovely rainy day.
One of the nice things with the tour is we learned the Fijian or Hindi names for the different foods. The first one being bhindi...aka the southern staple okra. We are really enjoying the availability of bhindi after being deprived for two years in Georgia....
Looks like a lime but it is orange inside! (Tastes like an orange too!)
Discovered there was an upstairs! What?!?!?!
Downstairs has more fruits and veggies....
while upstairs has kava, spices, potatoes, onions, garlic, and dried beans. Kava root is prepared as a drink with water and used to "relax without disrupting mental clarity" (or so wikipedia says.....you can learn more about kava there). It is very important to Fijian culture and if you visit a village it is recommend you bring kava root as a gift. I would say about 1/2 the vendors upstairs are selling kava root.
Bags and bags of different types of dhal (lentils).
Back downstairs, we headed to the outdoor section. We learned about a lot of the local greens and their nutritional value (who knew ota...a fern, was so nutritionally dense....not sure if I will buy some to cook with on my own at home though...I can only imagine the kids' faces when they say 'what's that?' as they point to curly greens on their plate and I say 'steamed ferns, eat up').
Uto (breadfruit) grows on trees. It is starchy like potatoes. You can peel it and then cook it just like you cook a potato. I need to try that (but I won't tell anyone and see if they notice a difference)!!
Three lovely sisters we stopped and chatted with for a bit.
We then walked all the way to the back of the market to the fresh seafood area. There was a whole array of fresh seafood here, many of it made into lunch size servings to go.
Dairo....tasty sea cucumber anyone?
While you can't see their eyes watching your every move, the crabs were still alive....another vendor had a large selection of multiple species of crab.
Namakeibelo.....sea grapes. The little white pouch is a coconut milk sauce to serve with them to counter balance the saltiness of the sea grapes.
Back in the vegetable portion, heading towards the flower market we passed a pineapple vendor. I learned a bit about picking the perfect pineapple. Unlike a lot of fruits that continue to ripen after picked, once cut from the plant the pineapple will not ripen any more nor get any sweeter. The ole sniff test is necessary to pick the perfect pineapple. If it smells like a pineapple should taste then it is good one. If it has no scent then it was picked too soon and will not be that sweet. If it smells of fermentation (alcohol), then it has begun to rot and will be bad.
As I mentioned here, I also picked up some flowers for Clarissa's birthday at the market that morning. It was a fun morning and I went home with a bag full of fresh and tasty fruits and veggies.
Edited: I forgot to add how long the string beans are here! Very tasty though!