Food Destinations #2: Lebensmittel Markt am Helvetiaplatz, Zurich, Switzerland
This is my entry for Food Destinations #2: My Local Market.
There are several fresh food markets in Zürich. I was actually going to talk about another one, but someone else had covered it already (as you'll see in the roundup!), so I decided to head to the market at Helvetiaplatz.
Helvetiaplatz is a leafy square in a residential neighborhood of Zürich, and it caters mainly to residents. (It's also on the edge of the small red-light district of the city, but that doesn't mean it's seedy. No where in Zürich is really seedy.) It's a lively market with approximately 30 stalls - a nice manageable size. Everything is presented pristinely, like all Swiss markets. About half of the stalls sell fruits and vegetables, ranging from a big operation in the middle that sells mostly fruits, to small one-man stalls with apples, potatoes and other produce that had just travelled a few minutes. I love the fact that Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland but there are still farms within the city limits.
All the produce is very clearly labeled by country of origin, except for the small local farmers' stalls. Most of the produce comes from within Switzerland, or from Italy, Spain or France. There were berries galore - raspberries, blackberries and red currants; late peaches and nectarines, plums in all colors, and so much more.
The really local fruit being sold by an old local farmer - an apple variety called Spartan that is rarely seen in supermarkets, juicy ripe pears, and reine-claude (greengages, a kind of plum) - were the most appealing to me though. If you've never had a fresh ripe greengage, which are a sort of pale yellow-green in color, you are missing a lot. And the apples were small, tart and crisp, the way I like my apples to be. What really drew my eye though was the really ancient scale he was using to weigh the fruit.
Fall was in the air in the form of squashes, both edible and ornamental. This green kind from the Ticino (the southern Italian speaking part of Switzerland) is one of my favorites, because it's sweet and dense like Japanese kabocha.
There are a lot of stalls selling flowers. On this first day of September there were lots of sunflowers and bright branches of physalis. This made me feel so nostalgic since my grandmother's garden had tons of these.
Some fall vegetable plants were being sold too. A lot of Swiss people with no gardens have allotments where they grow their own vegetables.
There are also stalls selling organically raised chicken and eggs, lamb, and other meats, fish, olives, as well as bread and baked goods. There was one crazy man from eastern Switzerland charming the socks off any lady that passed him by, convincing them to try his cured ham and cheese, rustic breads, and massive, fragrant steinpilz (Portobello mushrooms or large porcini).
And what Swiss market would be without cheese? There are a few cheese stalls, selling Swiss as well as French, Italian and Greek varieties. I went a bit nuts buying at the stall selling some interesting French cheeses, such as a wild boar (sanglier) cheese. Though...do they really mean it comes from pig (boar) milk? I will have to go back and find out.
There's a lot more too. Helvetiaplatz is in an area that has in recent years seen an influx of people of many nationalities. (It might be interesting to note that it's estimated that 25% of the population of this small city is now non-Swiss.) There are a few stalls reflecting this - such as one selling Persian delicacies like dried rose petals, dried dates and figs, and another selling Asian vegetables like pak choy and bitter melon. Even the regular stalls are selling more exotic looking produce now.
The Helvetiaplatz market operates year-round on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6am to 11am. To get there, take tram 8 or bus 32. From the main station, take tram 14 to Stauffacher, then either tram 8 or just walk a few blocks.
(Even more photos here!)