Apr 132013


I took a springtime walk through the Ramleh open-air market early last week. The sign wishing visitors a happy Passover was still up at the entrance.  You can find seasonal vegetables there which don’t appear in my local market: green chickpeas, purple carrots, Jerusalem sage… I like to roam around there and see what I can find.

image green garlic ramleh market

I mentioned last year that I’ll probably be posting about fresh green garlic every year, as long as I’m writing this blog. Well, it’s time.

And tell me, isn’t there something evocative about a bunch of purple-skinned fresh garlic? I confess, I feel the same esthetic satisfaction from one that contemplating a still-life of fruit by Monet gives me.

A sight for sore eyes – a nice bale of garlic.

image bale of garlic

Truth is, garlic season is already on its way out. I’d bought my yearly infusion of 20 kilos or so in the market near to where I live. I just like to see the stuff, it makes me happy. But the tired vendor taking a break doesn’t cherish romantic fantasies about garlic confit or anything like it. He just wants to move the produce and go home.

image garlic vendor ramleh market

In fact, lazy saunterers and curious tourists like myself are few in open-air markets. Well, Machaneh Yehusah and the Carmel Shuk are exceptions. But most folks in markets are only intent on their shopping.

people in ramleh market

Although this lad seemed positively worn out.

boy dozing in ramleh market

It’s the time of year when milky green almonds are for sale, and fresh grape leaves. I left the green almonds for next year, maybe. Their bland, gel-like pulp doesn’t seem worth the bother of splitting the almonds and digging it out. But I did buy grape leaves to cook with mushrooms.

image green almonds

One of the things I love about any shuk is the mix of people you’ll see there.

lady vendor ramleh market

An Arab lady vendor, always relaxed and willing to be photographed. I seek her stand out because I know she’ll have the herbs and vegetables that I won’t find in my local shuk: purple carrots in season, grape leaves, Jerusalem sage… Also, she’ll chat and tell you how she thinks you should cook your produce.

arab woman in shuk ramleh

This woman’s thoughtful, stoic, mysterious look intrigued me, there among the onions.

elderly man pushing cart ramleh market

This elderly Jew working hard and pushing a cart around the shuk made me wonder. Is it poverty that drives him to get up early and work like that? Or is he retired, bored at home and driving his wife nuts, so that he’s happier doing simple work in the shuk?

lemonade vendor ramleh market

The lemonade vendor uses an ancient method to serve his fresh, clean drink : he plunges a glass bottle with its bottom cut out into the jug of lemonade, maintaining suction by pressing the top of the metal straw. Releasing his thumb, the lemonade pours into a plastic cup, and there you are. I’ve seen a photo of a Byzantine pottery vessel for drawing wine (titros) that worked exactly like that. Good lemonade, too.

indian woman in formal dress

A woman in formal Indian dress made her way through the hustling crowd and dirty alleys.

image bread in ramleh market

I haven’t seen loaves of white bread like these in a long time. They used to be the standard, everyday Israeli bread but now look oddly old-fashioned. I regret not having bought one, I’m sure the taste would take me back in time at least 20 years.

image fresh za'atar

I bought several bunches of fresh za’atar to dry and to make some fresh za’atar pesto. I do have a small za’atar plant thriving on my balcony, but I’d have to strip it to get a bunch of pesto.

image green chickpeas

Fresh green chickpeas are another seasonal treat. I’ll show you what I did with my kilo a little later in this blog.

image garlic ramleh market

Ah, the soothing notion that there really is enough garlic in the world….

So here’s what I did with the green chickpeas. I just warmed a little garlic butter in a skillet and rolled the chickpeas around in it, over low heat. Then I raised the heat to medium let the chickpeas cook through. They were simply delicious,  delicately nutty and just starchy enough to satisfy the need for a snack. Later, I tossed the cooked chickpeas with rice.

But they lose flavor after a day, so you must be prepared to eat them up as soon as they’re cooked. There are worse things.

image roasted green chickpeas

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  10 Responses to “Rambling Through Ramleh”

  1. An attractive and delicious post. You know, I’ve never been there.

  2. Sarah and I also were there last week! How funny, I wonder if we just missed you.

  3. I always enjoy reading about your trips to the markets. Makes me want to be there too.
    And I’m addicted to garlic too. I try to put it into everything.

  4. Another garlic addicted here!
    Love your market pictures, it’s like a short trip from cool and cloudy Bavaria to a warm paradise full of the most delicious greens and herbs. Love fresh almonds and I would like to try fresh chickpeas.
    Most jealous I’m on your purple garlic which I nearly can’t get anymore here. Most (white) garlic comes from China and it’s quality is poor. The best one is the french one and when it’s sold on our famous “Viktualienmarket” I always buy a whole braid of it.
    Can’t you beam a bundle of yours over here in the meantime, Mimi?

  5. I paid a fine of $400 trying to smuggle garlic into Montreal, Canada. I love fresh garlic from Israel but they wouldn’t let me bring it in. Guess I’ll have to move back to Israel. Next year, be ezrat Hashem.

  6. We are in SouthWest Florida and see purple skinned garlic here in the markets occasionally. It is a Mexican import I think. It is much more pungent and flavorful than the “regular” white skinned garlic and a huge improvement, flavor wise, over the Jumbo garlic. (no pun intended!)

  7. Wish I could, Barbara.

  8. Malka, how awful. Yes, it’s worth moving back here – and for many, many other wonderful things besides fresh green garlic!

  9. Rachel, garlic has to be better than white garlic. As far as I know, that white garlic is mostly imported from China, and made pretty by bleaching.

  10. I’ll put garlic into anything but dessert, Jasmine!

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