The Khudarji Report 02 by Zayd: 13/06/09
Due to the souq being mostly closed on the Monday after election day, there was an obvious lack of hashayish and khudra (herbs and greens) in the early part of this week. Monday evening the shop closed quickly and early--around 9:00 p.m.--with the help of some neighborhood chabaab. It's hard to tell when gunfire is not just in response to a speech on television.
Qara` (a type of edible gourd) is coming in, as is me'teh (snake cucumbers). Kuusa (squash) is now arriving "ndiife" (clean). Corn has arrived; bamiyeh (okra) has appeared as well. Toot (mulberry) are now available. Fresh mulukhiyyeh hangs in bags in the shop. Wara' aanab (grape leaves) are in plentiful supply.
The current supply of batteekh (watermelon) is from the South; their storage takes up much floor and shelf space. Customers want perfection in their batteekh; they employ a critical vocabulary: "Grainy". "White". "Not sweet". "Not red". "Spongy". "Not delicious". "No taste". There are two ways to test watermelon; one is to drum with the palm of the hand, looking for a deep, hollow sound. One is to cut open the watermelon to examine for color and also taste. There are two types of "3a sekkeen" (under the knife) testing. One involves cutting the watermelon in half to show its redness. The other requires that a quadrangular wedge be lifted from the heart of the fruit and a slice from its tip be served. This is accomplished by making four cuts, blade pointed to the center of the melon, and wrist-punching both ends to release the wedge. The knife is used to serve a slice. There are two types of watermelon customer: more likely to keep, and more likely to bring back. The first kind prefers no test at all, or the in-half test; the second kind prefers the wedge test, and provides our list of descriptive terms.
Lawz (almonds) are large and mid-season; the green fruit is now discarded with the starting-to-harden shell inside. They are at 2,500 LL/kilo. Kiwi are from Italy. Grapefruit are gone. Khawkh aswad (black plum) is at 5,000 LL/kilo. The local crop of shammaam (cantaloupe) has entirely replaced the Jordanian one. They are in plentiful supply and are 4,000 LL/kilo.
Another item stocked for those who prefer things more "extra" than flavorful is "iceberg", also known as khass franji (French lettuce). Army soldiers and construction workers tend to buy potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in bulk. The transitional onions from Holland have given way to the local crop from Syria. The Lebanese crop of basal abyad (white onion) is in.
Fruit and vegetables in white styrofoam tend to be from Syria; those in dark grey plastic crates from Lebanon.
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.