Ever since last summer, I’ve seen posters on a few roundabouts urging ‘Todos ao Mercado - Almancil’ (everybody to the Almancil market). This local farmers' market is held every Thursday morning between 7:30 am and 1:00 pm next to the Associação Social e Cultural de Almancil (ASCA).
Organised by the Município de Loulé and the Junta de Freguesia de Almancil, it's similar to the other markets that you find around the Algarve and, indeed, if you’ve been to any of those you will no doubt recognize a few familiar faces. But the thing about this relatively new market that makes it so special - is that it's exclusively for local farmers who grow everything themselves.
What's in season?
Making my way around and stopping to talk to a few of the stall holders I was particularly impressed by the massive deep green cabbages. But there was a whole host of other fruits and vegetables on display. To name just a few, there was broccoli, lettuce, pumpkins, walnuts, monkey nuts, homemade piri piri and oranges (they even made their own marmalade).
And speaking of oranges. You know how when you go to the supermarket and pick up a shiny bright orange but are inevitably left disappointed when you get it home and take a bite? Well, here it's different. Trust me. The oranges and tangerines may shine brighter on the supermarket shelves, but they’ll never match the ‘zest for life’ that these local balls of Vitamin C give you. They are the real deal.
Indeed, all their fruits and vegetables are what's in season at the moment and have that unmistakable smell, freshness and vibrancy of things that were just plucked or dug up the day before.
Meet the farmers
I spoke with a lovely lady called Lurdes, from Ludo. She is the newest member of the crew and has only been selling here for the last few weeks. She told me she started by planting vegetables to feed her family and friends. But the land where she lives is just so incredibly fertile that she has found herself with a surplus and is now selling them here and really enjoying the community spirit and hustle and bustle of it all.
Wash your vegetables and vise-versa
I spoke to another lovely lady called Clara who along with her fruits and vegetables showed me something she grows called a ‘luffa’ that apparently works like a ‘escova’ (sponge) that you can use in the shower to wash yourself.
Don’t ‘Rentokil’ - Rent-a-Ladybird
Then there was Paula. She’s from Olhão, and again, besides her wonderful vegetables, she also sells framed pictures of bugs and plants that she finds at her farm, as well as a host of woolly wares that she's knitted herself. My favourite picture of hers was of a ladybird - who I was pleased to note aren’t just pretty but are actually excellent natural pesticides.
Flower powered shoes
Blooming amongst the fruit and veg was Mario, ‘the flower guy’. He had all sorts of very pretty little plants. He emptied his pockets and showed me how he’s always collecting seeds to see what he can take home and grow. He was a lot of fun and I was amused to see how he had found a way of turning high heels into some rather eye-catching plant pots.
There was a sweet girl called Délia selling honey. It's a buzzing family business that her uncle has now taken over from her grandpa. Délia does the selling at the markets but she showed me a video of her, now retired, grandpa explaining the benefits of eating a pinch of bee pollen everyday.
Water the local crafters and see them grow
I was told there’s usually a basket weaver there too who sometimes does workshops and indeed in the beginning there were a few other stalls with people selling all kinds of other traditional handmade things. But the trouble I was told is that not enough people know about this market and so its starting to dwindle a little. But if more people came then more stalls would start to spring up again, no doubt.
The best medicine is a fresh food diet
All the farmers here have worked very hard to grow all this wonderful produce and so it's a shame that they often don’t manage to sell it all. It's far tastier, more organic, less travelled and so more green than could ever be found in the supermarket - and in most cases, it’s even cheaper!
And this little piggy went… Weweeweee, all the way home
Time flew by and before I knew it they were all packing up and heading home (as a lot of them told me they had vegetables to water and chickens to feed).
But before they left I assured them that I’d do my best to spread the word and encourage more people to go. I hope it worked?