Everything about China and it's culture

Everything about China and it's culture

Produce on Wheels

Expensive city guides for Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing mention some of the most famous big open air produce markets, and to be sure you should go to these places if you’ve the time and inclination. They’re fun to see and make for an interesting experience for tourists and the curious alike. But if you really want to buy fresh vegetables in China’s cities, you needn’t go to any of these places or any great distance. You do need to get up early though.

Every day farmers and migrant workers come in to China’s cities from the countryside. Some of them have big motorized bicycle carts, some of them use horses, mules or even the occasional donkey, and some of them even have rickety old trucks or vans. What they all have is piles and piles of produce.  They come with the dawn, and they usually have a particular bit of street they go to every day to set up their scales and do business.

Every morning the urban Chinese head out early to meet them and buy their vegetables for the day. Unlike Americans, who love our refrigerators and prefer to go to the grocery store to buy vegetables naught but once a week, the Chinese like their vegetables fresh fresh fresh, and prefer to buy them a day at a time. Besides which, energy sucking refrigerators are something of a luxury item in China. So you’ll see Chinese urbanites laden with grocery sacks full of cabbage, peppers, onions etc, heading back home from the vegetable cart at 8:00 every morning.

Once all their vegetables have been bought up, the hawkers from the countryside are far from done for the day. They stay with their carts all day, selling a huge variety of fruit to passersby. What’s available depends to some extent on season – crabapples are hard to get at the same time as strawberries and good luck finding grapes in February – but the fruit on these stands is always fresh and delicious, and, like the vegetables, much cheaper than at a supermarket.

Figures show that the number of people who prefer supermarkets to produce carts for their shopping is increasing, but of course the figures can’t tell us why. Perhaps it is because supermarkets are convenient for one-stop shopping, or because big chain stores can offer competitive prices and guarantees on organic vegetables, or some other reason. Whatever the reason, one hopes it won’t mean an end to the produce carts, and onions and oranges on the go.

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