Saturday, September 22, 2007

The 66th good thing about Lagos: fresh produce

Before I first came to Lagos, I was afraid that I'd never be able to eat anything fresh here, and I didn't like the thought of never having a salad. I was relieved to learn that I was mistaken -- though there's not the variety of produce I am accustomed to in the US, there is plenty here and most of it is of quite good quality, if you stick to the fresh markets on the street. There is one grocery store that has some produce that doesn't look sickly, but most of the grocery stores' produce sections are not only much higher in price than what you find on the street, but the produce is all old and wilted. I know I've mentioned before about what we need to go through to clean our produce when we get it home, but I thought I'd post some pictures. First I fill the sink with water and just a little bit of dish soap and wash the dirt and any pesticides off the produce.
After washing in regular sink water (which we ONLY use for washing -- it usually comes out looking quite yellow...) then I fill a big tub with bottled water and add some Milton's (which is a weak bleach) or just some plain bleach. A common brand of bleach is Jik and many people here call this "jikking" your produce. I soak it in this weak bleach solution for 20 minutes. Technically, you may not have to bleach things you're going to cook or peel, but I "jik" everything, just to be safe. I don't want bacteria and whatever getting on other stuff in the fridge or on the counter.

Then it's time to rinse the produce in another tub with plain bottled water -- no bleach -- and then put it in a strainer or on towels to dry. I went through a good part of a 5-gallon bottle of water today cleaning my produce. And it's still waiting to be put away -- the lettuce in a storage container between layers of paper towels, other things in zip-lock bags.

I was a little bummed out since I've been back. My favorite produce spot on Bar Beach has been moved out. They are doing some changes on the beach front and I guess "they" (some official somebodies) decided that they didn't want a market there. The sellers there had great fresh produce and a lot of variety and there was a seller named Ismael who was always glad to see me and called out "Caroleena -- how are you today?" My driver doesn't yet know where Ismael is now, but hopefully he'll get the scoop -- drivers are the true source of information here.

So now I often go to a place that was recommended to me as being a place with great prices and because it was almost across the street from our former apartment, I went there sometimes for the convenience, though it doesn't have the variety of the Bar Beach market. It looks a little scary from the street -- kind of like a camp for homeless people, which is exactly what it is. This is not a great picture of the produce stand, but you can see that I could also sit there like the boy in the picture and get a haircut after I pick out my vegetables (seen in the background). Also there's the bonus of wildlife all around as the chickens wander freely (not pictured, but, trust me, they're all over the place). In the jerry cans is water, which they sell to the many people living in conditions where they have no running water. There are guys pushing these carts with jerry cans of water to sell all over the streets of Lagos.

Earlier this week I bought some apples from somebody selling them on a table beside the street -- they are set up on many corners. (I'll post a picture later after I take one).

And then today we went out to Lekki market which is mostly a handicraft market (a picture here of one of the stalls), but they also have a produce section with more variety than the homeless camp market.

So, all of you readers who buy your produce in grocery stores in the States with cheap prices, huge variety and can bring it home and put it directly in your refrigerator -- I hope you appreciate what a blessing that is!

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