Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Oh, if only you could be in Georgia right now. Summer is here. We still have relatively cool evenings, hot days and the best part? It's fresh fruit and veggie season!

I had been led to believe, before moving here, that spring and summer brought an abundance of fruit and veggies but during winter, the pickin's were slim. Not so much the case these days now that Georgia has fairly reliable trade with other countries with warm climes during our winter, but spring and summer are still the best for fresh produce. Grown locally - anywhere from Tbilisi to Batumi and all places in between, if you are a fruit and vegetable lover, this is the time to be here.

Not only is the produce abundant, fresh and outrageously delicious - but it's also dirt cheap. I can go to the veggie market and buy enough vegetables to feed my family for a week or more for less than 10 bucks. A kilo of tomatoes, some salad greens, fresh basil, green onions, garlic, purple onions, potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant - so much for so little. And so damn good. The tomatoes and cucumbers in Georgia are some of the best tasting I have ever had. I missed Georgian cucumbers while I was in the U.S. earlier this year - here they are almost sweet. I can eat a whole cucumber (or two) as a snack.

Fruits are a bit trickier, because the seasons here for some fruits are very definite. Strawberries, for example are "done" now. In May, you could get a kilo of strawberries for 2 or 3 lari almost anywhere - at the bazroba, at the grocery store, on the corner by your house. Everyone had strawberries for sale. Perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. But when the season is over it is over. You cannot buy a strawberry now if you wanted one (lucky me - I froze a bunch). Once strawberries are done, cherries start appearing. And apricots, and peaches. Apples are available, but won't really be in peak season for another month or so. And melons.

Oh, if you like watermelon, Tbilisi is the place to be during watermelon season. They are becoming available now - and quite decent, but in another few weeks? I cannot even begin to describe how incredibly awesome the watermelons will be. Right now, the prices are at a premium - 1 lari per kilo, an average of anywhere from 8 -10 kilos for a small watermelon, so 4 to 5 bucks US. But when season is in full swing later this month through August? Watermelon will be about 20 tetri per kilo. That's works out to about 10 cents per kilo. For less than a dollar I can have some of the sweetest watermelon in the world. And I know watermelon, believe me. My grandfather used to grow some of the best watermelon on his farm in Alabama - summers there were spent picking the ripe ones for market and a few to eat until our bellies would pop. Blaine is now experiencing the joys of fresh watermelon - he begged me to buy one yesterday at the market and I did - we both ate quite a bit as soon as we got home.

The best part of the fresh produce here is that the timing is perfect for Kyra. We are just starting to introduce solid foods to her. She had a little taste of watermelon at the 4th of July celebration and liked it. This past week we started offering her banana (not Georgian, usually imported from South America) which she quite likes. And then carrots, which she prefers over banana. Yesterday she had her first taste of apricot and I think she loves that best of all. I have peaches waiting to be tried - if I don't eat them all first. I have also cooked up some pears for her to try later this week (I cook and freeze it in ice cube trays with a dash of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown). When apples come into season I will do the same. I could buy jarred food - but why would I when it's so much cheaper (and tastier, in my opinion) to offer her the fresh fruit and veggies.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some watermelon calling my name. Yum.

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