Epping Fruit & Veg Market

When It comes to fresh delicious fruit and vegetables, at the best possible price, there is no excuse but to visit the Epping fruit and veg market. It is not only the place to meet Cape Town’s local growers, but also a great environment for creative thought and menu planning. Nowadays we have become spoilt for choice regardless of season because of tunnel farming and unnatural imports of fruit and veg from other countries. The latter massively adding a carbon footprint onto what should be a very natural low carbon item. Imported fruit and veg also pushes the price of local goods up exponentially with farmers understanding their ability to be competitive against these inflated prices, more often than not resulting in the consumer paying more than they should, just to have the convenience of eating a cherry in May. I remember as a child patiently waiting for the new seasons to arrive, with it new fruits and veg which you so longed for throughout the winter, or vice versa in the summer, but I must confess, a juicy peach, quite far out trumps a guava in my book...

Back to the point of my blog though, seasonality is key at this market and it is grounding and re invigorating to see what is mostly locally grown, and in season. Thus allowing Lyall and I to shop for the freshest hand picked ingredients which are at their peak ripeness and exactly the way we need them, resulting in a great final product, one that I am happy to wake up at 3:30 AM to go and buy for you.

Bulk is the key word here though, don't expect to pop out and grab 3 apples and 2 kg onions, most items are only for sale in multiples of 10 ie 10 punnets cauliflower, 10kg onions, 5 kg tomatoes, etc. With regards to quantity the funniest one I've seen so far, was when watermelons just came into season, the minimum purchase was 86, or per pallet. It was only 82 more than I wanted, but with some proper planning and some clever use of refrigeration buying these larger quantities has enabled us to not increase our prices even with the cost of fresh produce continuously going up because of the current drought in Cape Town. 

We have had some interest from relatives and our friends to bulk buy some items and then re package and sell these put together packs at a set price, is this something you would also be interested in? We're busy testing the waters to see if it is viable, please let us know your thoughts.

So onto the nitty-gritty side of the market.

A - Its not the prettiest neighbourhood, and I don't mean this because of the housing, etc. There is a lot, A LOT of traffic that goes through this market on a daily basis, hundreds of people frequent it before most folk have even woken up in the morning. I've tagged in the address, but don't get put off when you're driving in, there is an informal hustle and bustle market outside the official peoples market, or market of cape town area. Here you can find great deals and smaller size boxes, usually these items need to be used or eaten within a few days of purchase, as there is no refrigeration at these outside informal markets.

B - Maybe this should've been point A actually... You need to be there at 5:30AM, not wake up at this time... be there, at the very latest, I've previously been earlier and there is a better selection of goods available, but I find 5:30 to be a good middle ground. Try and park close to the ramp section on the right as you come inside, it makes leaving and packing your car a little easier later on.

C - There is some paper work you need to do. Its very simple and straight forward and can be downloaded in advance from their website. The admin office only opens at 6AM so, it is better to try and get your buyers card the day or so before you intend to shop, but it is a very speedy operation and you could be back on the floor by 6:15 and ready to purchase. I have always operated with a cash card, whereby I need to request my items at the individual suppliers, then pay at a central point, then collect, with the help of someone, more on this later though. You can do a credit, or prepaid card which is simpler and safer, its up to you.

D - The Scout. Possibly the most important part of the mission. The market is big, and fruit and veg comes from far and wide... so the suppliers have different prices for similar goods, sometimes the quality of the product deems the higher price, sometimes the freshness, sometimes the scarcity on that day at the market, regardless, I always do a full walk to all 5 wholesalers to get a feel for what the right price should be, and who has the best quality, at said price.

E - The Layout. The first few times it can and will be daunting, but with practice and patience it actually becomes a fun game, haggling and navigating for the best possible prices. The market is big, possibly 500 metres from 1 side to the other, and most trips I walk this 4 times, so budget some time to spend here, roughly 2 hours should suffice. There are 5 major wholesalers, each have separate stands for fruit, and then for veg...there are specialist tomato suppliers and specialist onion and potato suppliers, but most suppliers also sell onion and potatoes, confused yet? Take it slow, ask questions and just enjoy the experience.

F - Keep your eyes open. Be careful, everyone here is here for business and don't have much time to waste, so they are moving fast, there are fork lifts buzzing up and down, gents pushing train trolleys overflowing with just purchased produce, keep your wits about you, as you could get knocked over. BEWARE THE FORKLIFTS, you have been warned.

G - Payment. Find one of the 2 pay points, they are on either side of market. You will receive 1 really long slip outlining your total purchase. And individual slips to collect your individual items.

H - Collection. You will notice big trolleys getting pushed up and down the main passageway. There are also very friendly and knowledgeable gents who push these trolleys, who, for a fee, will help you navigate the art of collecting your just paid for goods. I usually spend R25 for a small load, and R45 for an extra large load, you can of course bring your own trolley, but I have never.

I - WOW, this is a long post...so now you've got your guy, and your slips, now you go back to places you bought the veg and collect it. This is prob the most satisfying part for me... picking and choosing exactly the items you want.

J - Leave, pack your car, and head off home, dreaming of all the great things you can make with your bounty of fresh fruit and veg.

Thanks for reading.