“Foot of the Garden”

Posted on July 3, 2009


This week Ron and I decided to take the Friday morning shopping ritual beyond the usual parameters, and after picking up our pal Miriam, we set off for Haifa.  Our first stop was the Hadar district – the city’s seamy, grimy paunch – and its Talpiot Market.  We’d all been to the market’s outdoor stalls at some point, but there was a whole inside market that we wanted to investigate. 

By 9:30 it was already brutally hot, and not much cooler in the cavernous market where the shoppers were packing the aisles shoulder to shoulder reaching over piles of summer fruit, ignoring the raucous shouts of the stall-masters.  There were many Russians and a number of Asian foreign workers – both signs that the prices here should be good.  We bought plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, “baladi” (not hothouse raised) cucumbers, purple basil, mint and parsley, cherries and peaches, then ascended out of the market buzz, back to the car and on to our next stop.

Wadi Nisnas is the small and lovely Arab neighborhood in downtown Haifa – it has a quiet, village feel to it and a small market on an entirely different scale and tenor than Talpiot.  At this point our energy level was dipping, so we stopped at Nadima’s outdoor eatery – a little corner with a few tables and several pots on portable gas burners.  The delicious fresh hummus, okra in tomato sauce, mejadra and stuffed zucchini revived us and we continued on to explore the market. 

farfahina manOn a makeshift table, next to a crate of braided garlic bunches, I spotted a box holding a green plant I’d never seen before – which I suspected had to be something wild.  The stand owner explained that this is farfahina – or “regel hagina” (the foot of the garden) in Hebrew.  It had thick stems like a succulent, and small leaves that were fresh and delicious, with a slightly sour taste. The owner, who turns out to be a Bedouin from Ibtin, a village not far from us, told us that he gathers it at the edges of the fields, where there is irrigation.  He instructed me how to cook it – chopped finely, together with onion and tomato.  I am going to prepare it tonight for dinner.

farfahina 2