Farmers Market Update: Marrakech, Morocco

by | Jan 13, 2013

Covered Food Market in Marrakech

Elyse Kopecky is an Oregonian living, working and playing outdoors in Geneva, Switzerland. She’s a passionate food and health blogger who enjoys inspiring friends to live fresh. Next month she’s leaving the corporate world to study health supportive culinary arts at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and on the trail at www.freshabits.com and @freshabits.

The Market Mazes of Marrakech

by Elyse Kopecky

Marrakech Farmers Market

In Marrakech every day is market day. In fact, in this city of a million people, every minute of every hour of every day the streets are alive with the sights, sounds and smells of vendors hawking their wares. Even for a serious foodie the city’s food and spice markets are a force to be reckoned with. Pass through the red walls of the Medina and you will soon find yourself lost in a maze of markets.

Street Vendor

As a food and health blogger, I’ve developed a craving to seek out extraordinary markets. Discovering farmers markets in faraway places is an adventure in both food and culture.

Beets

I also have an affinity for spices. To me Moroccan food celebrates the range of sweet, bitter, fiery and aromatic spices better than any other cuisine. In fact, Morocco’s most famous seasoning, Ras el Hanout, is typically a blend of 35 spices. 35! Oh la la! Therefore, it was no surprise to my husband when I told him that for my birthday, I wanted to go on a culinary excursion to Marrakech.

Peppers and Cinnamon

The old fortified city of Marrakech is truly one giant market. In any direction you look someone is selling something. Anyone visiting for the first time should be prepared to get lost, and lost, and lost again as you search for the true foodie corners where local Berber farmers sell their homegrown specialties. Luckily, on our first day, my husband and I stumbled upon a small square packed with elderly men selling local produce.

Artichokes

We bought some oranges and pomegranates that looked bruised and battered, but tasted fabulous. I especially loved the giant weathered flour sacks stuffed with bundles of fresh mint. For Moroccans, mint tea is the cornerstone of every gathering. They mix fresh mint leaves with green or black tea for a midday energy boost (healthy alternative to coffee!).

Pomegranates

For our second day of exploring the markets we hired Eben Lenderking, owner of the fabulous cooking school at Sanssouci Collection and author of the cookbook Tanjia Marrakchia, to guide us through the maze of food stalls. Our culinary adventure continued with a tour of the spice markets, where we were guided to a wholesale shop in a small back alley of the old Jewish quarter.

Culinary Class Dada

There we bought spices for the tajine and couscous dishes that we would be cooking later in a class taught by Eben’s Dada (aka head chef). We also bought a few Moroccan specialties to bring back home, including beautiful threads of saffron, savory cumin, the shop’s own house Ras el Hanout blend, cinnamon bark and the famed nutritious Argan oil.

Fish

After stocking up on spices, we headed to the impressive Marche du Mellah, a covered food market where we picked up fresh vegetables. A traditional Moroccan vegetable couscous dish contains seven vegetables (so nutritious!). The version we cooked at Riad Kaiss included onion, cabbage, zucchini, tomato, carrot, turnip and pumpkin. We also scoped out the fresh fish for a monkfish tajine, which ended up being our favorite dish of the cooking course.

Tajine

Marrakech is not for everyone. It’s loud, dusty and chaotic. But Marrakech has a magic, energy and excitement that I have never experienced anywhere else. And it has the flavors to match its unique vibe. For a food lover, Marrakech is a true culinary adventure. An adventure in finding your way through the maze of markets and an adventure in endless spices, oils, grains and vegetables. I left Marrakech inspired to continue my drive to explore the amazing and wonderful food markets of our world.

Beets and Squash

You can continue to follow my culinary adventures and get inspired to live FRESH at www.freshabits.com.

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4 Responses to “Farmers Market Update: Marrakech, Morocco”

  1. Dee says:

    Wow! That is what I call a market!

    Saw a documentary once featuring Moroccan market ….i think it was either with anthony bourdain or Andrew Zimmerman…..Made me feel to travel all the way to morocco just to get the spices!

  2. Todd says:

    Wow, I’d love to make it to Morocco. That produce would never sell in U.S. grocery stores, but I bet it tastes better!

  3. Laurence says:

    Very nice article! Beautiful photos!

  4. stacey k. plenty says:

    hi. This is good to know. Going there December 24-January 1st, 2015. How do I get in touch with the chef that showed you around. Do I have to be a chef to get that cooking class?? I am doing a 1 day cooking class in Fes.

    We are a family of 3. How much was the cooking class with shopping in Marrakech??

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