Khudarji: owner of a mahal al-khudra, a fruits and vegetables shop. My friend Zayd spends a lot of time at the local kudarji. He promised to send regular reports.
The Khudarji Report 001: 06/06/09
Spring stone fruits have replaced most of the late winter citrus. Darraaq (peaches) and khukh al-aswad (black plums) are plentiful right now. Mishmush (apricots) are at 2,500 LL/kilo. Cherries are in short(er) supply due to problems during the bloom this season: 6,000 LL/kilo. Janarik (unripe green plums) are turning golden yellow and are thus almost finished season-wise; customers ask whether they are considered plums yet.
Acadania (loquat) are now imported from Turkey; they are more watery and less flavorful. They are also larger and darker orange in color.
Jordanian watermelons have given way to the local crop. Watermelon growers have taken to packaging their melons one to a cardboard box. Watermelon is at 1,000 LL/kilo.
Saudi potatoes are long gone. The Egyptian crop has given way to the local one. The Egyptian potatoes come packed in sacks surrounded by what seems to be brown earth; in fact it is sawdust. Saudi potatoes are often rejected for political reasons.
Imported bananas are always referred to as "Somalian"; the current crop of "Somalian" bananas is from Ecuador. Spinney's customers especially see this moniker as implying "extra".
Requests from a customer have led to the appearance of Granny Smith apples from Chile. They are about 7,000 LL a kilo; the customer refers to them as "extra". They go unsold.Another customer made a similar mistake in requesting broccoli and red cabbage.
Mangoes make a nice gift when visiting someone in the neighborhood. Their high price (10,000 LL/kilo) is due to importation from Australia. A customer further asks: "There's no Lebanese mango?" Another customer replies: "The apple! The apple is the Lebanese mango!"
The local crop of onions has given way to a variety from Holland. The skins are salmon-colored and they are preferred by khudarjiin (plural form of khudarji) because they are less prone to sending up shoots and going mushy.
The local crop of garlic has arrived; it cannot displace Chinese bagged garlic. The Chinese garlic carries the name Garlic King and is pure white. The local variety has a purplish tinge.
Kuusa (squash) are delivered with the flower still attached. Customers are endlessly surprised to learn that the flower is eaten in France and Italy.
The crop of foul (faba beans) is slowing down; that of fasooliya (haricot beans) has arrived.The extremely short season of buying full, immature hommous bushes (green chickpea, called ‘um ‘ulaibeneh) has come and gone.
The Khudarji Report, by Zayd, reflects conditions unique to a neighborhood in central Beirut; the status at your local mahal al-khudra will most likely vary.