Fruit and vegetable explosion

Sep 17, 2013 2 Comments by
Bansko market

Picture taken 1st September 2013: Late summer Bansko market abundance

On the way to Bansko you’ll always see some street side vendors. Probably the first you’ll see is just before Dupnitsa, Which is around fifty minutes into your transfer. In winter, you’ll see big bags of potatoes, and cabbages stacked high.

When I first came to Bansko I remember this site — but it was the ancient Lada cars with the potatoes and cabbages that were impressing me.

I now know that these potatoes are amongst the best to be found anywhere in Bulgaria. They tasted of a flavour I could recall from my childhood.

A few years later…

The Jazz Fest, The Opera Fest are over so it’s time for fruit and vegetable to take centre stage.


Bansko market

Bansko has their market on a Sunday and the purpose of this post is to encourage everyone to take a trip there.

It’s located just below the main square and as I recently went down for a big shop I thought the joy of this shopping experience is something others would also share.

I’ll add that wherever I travel, I make it to a market. I can pass on seeing all the museums and cathedrals and rather take a long slow stroll around a local market. These last three weeks have been amazing time for me — and for all the fruit and vegetable lovers.

This the time of harvest here in Bulgaria and also the busy period for jarring the produce.


From garden to kitchen

Some of the fruit and vegetable stands are from enterprising Babas (grandmothers). Often selling produce from their own garden plots. One such was selling grapes like I have never tasted before. Wonderful irregular tomatoes and black currants that are perfect for jarring. Melons sold ripe and juicy that I demolish a whole one in less than an hour. The various berries have been stunning this year.

Plums are ripe and juicy right now. But seeing the local cauliflower crop have been harvested, along with the first squashes/ pumpkins. Add that the tomatoes are still great, the peppers are worth a special mention as are the aubergines (egg plant).

Can you imagine perfect peppers at 1 leva (€0.50 approx) per kilo?

You get used to value in Bulgaria, but this one is a stunning one.

Inferior tasting ones are around £6.00/kilo vs £0.40 here in Bulgaria right now!  (1/15th of the price). Roasting and jarring these peppers with vinegar, oil, parsley and garlic is what we did on Sunday. Now is the time when people here roast tens of kilos of peppers and jar them, or freeze them, for the winter ahead.

With a smile on my face, we came away with two huge shopping bags loaded up. Total bill 25 leva. We had raspberries,  grapefruits, plums, grapes, potatoes, cauliflower, peppers, onion, ockra, tomatoes, green beans, melon. We even get free fresh red onions and garlic thrown in.

Most traders are happy for you to try before you buy. This is shopping how it should be… the shopping in your bag marking the passing seasonal produce. It is somehow uplifting.


Luxury food; ordinary price

Sometimes a spot of luxury is required.  The end of the fig season — so nice when eaten raw or just heated in the oven.

But the root vegetables are coming in thick and fast now. Red beetroots and cabbages climbed to a higher level of pleasure than I used to remember. Eating a cabbage salad with a simple olive oil dressing is all that’s required.

Next month, Bulgarians will start pickling the cabbage in big barrels to produce their tasty sour kraut. This is popular with pork in the cold winter days and also the major ingredient for Bansko’s signature dish – kapama. Try pork with sour cabbage in Chateau Antique and The Log House. You won’t leave hungry.

It was curry time, like most weeks for us. So I always hunt out okra to help make my vegetable curry as good as possible. Okra is not so popular in Bulgaria. You’ll sometimes find someone selling okra, recently I bought some. It’s 2.50 leva (€1.25)/ kilo, as we come to the end of the season.

Actually, like many people, we usually have a good supply of fruit and veg kindly offered from friends, and family “Babas” who donate their garden surplus produce. Their spare jarred tomatoes, jams, peas, beans and so on are some of the best chefs’ ingredients on the planet.

No preservatives, and still fresh when you open the jars in winter.

Folks here also jar liutenitsa – a dip made from minced red peppers and tomato puree with herbs and spices. Tasty and widely available in Bansko’s many mehanas.


A super easy Bulgarian recipe

Of course, you do not need to jar, you can just enjoy the seasonal fresh produce in your well known dishes. Or, why not try a Bulgarian recipe very suitable for this period – guyvetch?

Here’s how.

Just throw in all fresh vegetables you can find on the stalls – chopped onion, a few sliced peppers and potatoes, fresh peas or green beans, aubergine, carrots, a handful of okra, a pureed tomato.

Generously season with olive oil, paprika, chubritsa and parsley. Roast until the vegetables are nice and crispy. Need meat? Then adding pieces of pork, chicken or beef does the trick.


The price story

These fruit and vegetable “luxuries” are a cook’s dream. Back to curry and thinking about okra once again. This beauty sells in Tesco, the biggest UK supermarket chain, for £9.66 per kilo. Bulgaria price it’s the equivalent of £1.05 that’s 1/9th of the price. Or look at it the other way — okra costs 900% more per kilo in the UK.

As a very rough generalisation, locally grown fruit and vegetables are around a third of the price.

Parsley, dill and the famous chubritsa herbs are exceptional value. I sue them far more now — often a small bunch is just 50 stotinki and makes cooking taste fresh. Back to the curry, ginger is now widely available. Not all the things I like are easy to find. Whilst basil is now quite widely sold it’s fresh coriander that still is not available. Coriander has a rather overly fragrant taste for many Bulgarians. Their palates have yet to broaden. Or rather they have been exposed to much less multi ethnic food influences than I.

Tastes are broadening, but conservatism in cooking flavours are still normal. So after my failure to make my coriander seeds germinate, my attempt to grow my favourite herb will have to be resumed next Spring.


The extras

Honey and jams jostle for your attention. I’ve never regretted stocking up on these.

The one thing you’ll be sure of that most of the produce has travelled less than an hour to here and that the taste experience is mind makes a Sunday trip to Bansko’s market something a great activity that is not only fun, but seems right on every level.

You’ll find home made rakia sold too. Some say that the purity of home made rakia makes it the best alcohol available. I can’t possibly comment.


Health and wellbeing

You may even find the Aronia berry for sale. These can be made into a superb and mega healthy drink. See Wikipedia link to read that preliminary research suggests “aronia consumption has addressed potential for reducing risk of disease. Among the models under evaluation include reduction of blood cholesterol,[20] colorectal cancer,[21] cardiovascular disease,[22] chronic inflammation,[23] gastric mucosal disorders (peptic ulcer),[24] eye inflammation (uveitis)[25] and liver failure.[26].  

I do believe that diet is important in the prevention of many diseases. Bulgaria is perfect for sampling these fine in season fresh ingredients.

Whilst you can’t be sure everything is “organic” — I’m sure from time to time chemicals are used. But I’m confident from friend’s parents that few, if any, are sprayed.

Is this the sort of  everyday “bio” / “organic” production that I want to support?

Every day of the week it’s a big fat YES from me.


If you subscribe to this blog you’ll be sent my free “The Essential Guide to Bansko” .

You’ll also receive regular updates to help you find the best of food both the restaurant and tips for finding the best ingredients in Bansko for cooking meals in your apartment.  find quality fruit and vegetables that

My final tip is to try the new season walnuts. These whole walnuts are simply amazing, an affordable luxury here. Normally  just 17lv/kg (compared to £11.50/kg in Tesco’s for “walnut pieces”

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this then please join in the discussion below and “like” the Bansko Blog Facebook Page.

Watch out for an article on my search for quality meat in Bulgaria.

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About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

2 Responses to “Fruit and vegetable explosion”

  1. Ian pugh says:

    You have done it now Mr Nelson with that insightful message on the Bansko Blog App.

    I want to go skiing again now, although my plans for Bansko 2014 I dont think will happen as I am just prepping for 3 weeks with friends in Canada.

    It will have to be Fortuna Apartments, Bansko 2015 next.

    Keep up the good work!

    And for readers who haven’t got the app, download it and rate it to keep it free.

    Thanks / Blagadoria

    Ian Pugh
    Fortuna 5

    • Lance says:

      Hi Ian,

      Thank you for your most kind comments. App Rate and reviews. They make all the difference and it takes less than a minute to do it! It also helps if you book your ski and snowboard hire, lessons, lift passes, transfers and hotel here on I may add that the Bansko app has no annoying, and battery consuming, pop up ads. It’s a totally independent app. In short, it’s the app I built for me — a skier and traveller.

      That’s why I believe in this app so much.

      We are testing our new updates right now. And, as a little teaser, we are adding some new cool features. As a teaser… have you ever been skiing with friends and you cant find each other — either on the piste or in town? Well I have — so many times.

      I need the Bansko app to solve this problem… We’re nearly there and in a few weeks you’ll see a nice shiny update which incorporates no lesss three totally new features and five new buttons that help you find the info you’re after faster.

      We have gone live with a better interface in the places section so you can recognise your hotel easier than before — but the big upgrade is coming soon.

      Thanks again Ian.

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