Inside Armenia’s Farmers Markets, Gumi Shuga and Malibu Shuga

   

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My favorite Armenian farmers market

From the outside, Gumi Shuga, an indoor and outdoor Armenian farmers market in Yerevan, may seem intimidating to say the least. The entrance to this vast and complicated farmers market is an old Soviet-esque building, which does say “Armenian Farmers Market” in English as well.

Once you step inside, there are countless stands, booths, foods and even stray cats to encounter. I never go to this particular market when I am in a rush because I inevitably get lost in the spell of this particular place. Vendors and farmers here may be used to tourists and non-locals by now, but that doesn’t stop them from asking about your life story, and for those shoppers who cannot communicate in Armenian or English, they will simply encourage (force) you to sample their dried or fresh fruits, cheese, honey, jams, fresh bread, and best of all, homemade wine or vodka, regardless of what time it is.

I save this market for when I need to do a lot of shopping, and leave with bags of Armenian, Arabic, Iranian and Georgian spices, village wines, local beans, lentils, grains, seeds and nuts, sometimes indulging in some treats such as soujoukh, which are walnuts covered in dried preserve—usually grape, or alani, dried peach stuffed with walnuts and honey. While this market has an outdoor section where farmers from almost every village come to sell their produce at, I usually skip this area and do my produce shopping at different farmers’ markets throughout the city.

Not all markets are created equal

While I could keep all of my shopping to one specific location, Armenia’s farmers markets are quite diverse and depending on what you may be shopping for, some are better than others. I find every market I visit in and out of Yerevan has its own charm, its own character, and its own specific sets of strengths and weaknesses. While Gumi Shuga is great for all of the items mentioned above, the outdoor produce market is absolutely chaotic and frustrating, and I would only encourage one to venture there if they like to bargain, and are looking for some adventure—and a lot of cigarette smoke.

The best Armenian farmers market for produce

Malibu Shuga, another Armenian farmers market on the other side of Yerevan, is where I prefer to do all of my produce shopping, and there are many farmers who grow non-traditional vegetables there as well, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I also buy pickled cauliflower, celery and hot peppers here, as I find them to be the best-tasting ones, and with the entire market being outside under umbrellas, it really is a better place to pick and choose the week’s vegetables and fruits.

Variety is the spice of life

While Armenia’s farmers markets are scattered and easy to find—including a 24-hour one, and you can do all of your shopping at any one of them, I like to visit different ones to get different items and always leave with some new stories, lots of groceries, and sometimes with a stomach full of village wine!

 



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