The open air markets in Tbilisi are vast, sprawling, and sometimes unexpected. As a farmer, I’ve been really delighted to see the vast variety of fruits and veggies available, especially the ones that in the US we see as novelties.
For example, the dominant green bean and fresh shelling bean is a long flat bean with vibrant purple striping — in the US we call it “dragon’s tongue,” and as far as I can tell only niche CSA farmers grow it in the US. I’ve seen ladies shelling them in the market, sitting on low stools next to their stands, dropping the bright pink-and-white beans into vibrant piles like so many jelly beans.
The markets, fittingly, seem to cluster around bus and train stations. By Station Square, you can wander for hours amongst the stalls selling not just produce and mounds of herbs, but chunks of freshly-butchered meat, jams and canning supplies, toiletries and household goods, homemade wine, and glistening rounds of white salty cheese.
People don’t just buy one or two peaches or tomatoes here. The kilo is the baseline of measurement. Be prepared to fill entire plastic bags with your purchases or feel ashamed that your total for 3 tomatoes, a pepper, and 2 onions came to less than 2 lari (80 cents). It feels like you’re wasting they time when you buy so little. But, every proprietor I’ve interacted with has been incredibly generous and patient with my lack of language skills — opening with an earnest “gamarjoba,” pointing to a pile of something and asking “sami? (three?)” or “erthi? (one?)” seems to be enough to win them to my cause.
These pictures don't come close to doing justice to the market experience. And I didn't spend nearly enough time wandering around, haggling for, purchasing and cooking with these awesome ingredients. Yet another reason why I'll have to say not "Goodbye" but "See you soon" to Tbilisi.