Johannesburg is often quite fittingly referred to as the New York of Africa. It’s the City of Gold where creativity and innovation never sleep – a true concrete jungle that also boasts as the home to one of the largest man-made urban forests in the world. Jozi is the ultimate definition of high-contrast living.
Obviously, it was only a matter of time before the long-lasting outdoorsy trend of fresh and organic markets would hit the city like a scene from Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs. (We didn’t make that up. It’s actually a Golden Globe nominated 3D computer-animated science fiction comedy film.)
Cities at large have almost lost the ways in which food was once gathered and prepared in communities; growing your own veggies, swopping some with Oom Sam, your neighbour, eating your livestock nose-to-tail, or “pens en pootjies” (boots and all), as they say.
Everything became fast, instant, and ready-to-eat by just pouring hot water over it.
A huge revival of some sorts has, however, taken place in the past few years.
Urban farming is no longer a front for marijuana growers. Chef Reuben Riffel’s restaurant is unapologetically promoting nose-to-tail dining, and Oom Sam can now sell his veggies at a fresh market, directly to the hipster with the Nutribullet. (A Nutribullet, for those who don’t know, is a blender that breaks down whole fruits and veggies to extract the maximum nutrition from your food. Thank you for coming to our TED Talk…)
In many parts of Johannesburg and Pretoria, Food For Mzansi has seen sidewalk veggie gardens, where homeowners plant seeds at their own expense and leave a sign out inviting anyone in need to take from the garden as they need.
We visited a few longstanding and up-and-coming fresh produce markets around the beloved City of Gold and listed just three of them.
Victoria Yards: Makers & Growers Market
This is the inner-city new kid on the block, but fast becoming a Babylonstoren in the most Joburg kind of way. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.
But Victoria Yards does combine inner-city madness with the tranquility of a space like Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms.
It hosts a First Sunday Market (on the first Sunday of each month) where producers showcase their goods, from fresh carrots at 20 bucks to an iconic painting by Ayanda Mabulu, the artist who fears no politician. All the while, of course, sipping on a great craft beer from Impi Brewing, walking through the luscious greens of the garden. Every bit of space that isn’t a building, a sidewalk or a sitting area is taken up by plants, veggies and fruit trees.
Bryanston Organic Market
This is probably one of the oldest fresh foods and organic markets in Jozi, if not the oldest. It’s truly an organic experience. Some of the veggies on sale here, you’ve probably never seen before. You know what they say, if it’s weird, it must be the real deal.
It’s basically the godmother of fresh markets. The market only operates on Thursdays and Saturdays. We went on a Thursday, and it was packed with northern suburb families on lunch outings.
Even though it’s a bit over-populated with crafts, there’s still plenty of fresh food to indulge in or take home. Being located on a school’s property, the market doesn’t sell alcohol, but the litchi, pear and apple juice is most delicious.
This market is for the serious organic tribe. They smell a fake from a mile away. We guess that’s why we didn’t stay too long…
Fourways Farmers’ Market
If you are looking for a vibe, this is the space to go to. Fourways Farmers’ Market focuses mostly on food and drinks, and man, do people indulge in them – from fresh oysters and bubbly, to roasted butternut (yes, as a meal!).
The live music is pretty chilled. The kids are running around in the play area, and moms with prams can walk around freely. It’s kind of the Maboneng for people in the North. Although we didn’t see as much “fresh produce”, it’s still a highly-recommended space to visit. Keep in mind that parking is limited, but you can park safely at the nearby Montecasino. For many it’s the perfect after-church vibe.
What are you waiting for? There’re still a few great weeks of city summer vibes left. You simply want to have more memories made and stories to tell. Winter is coming. Go and enjoy a good urban market this weekend if you’re in or around Johustleburg.