Table of contents       Previous VegeTale       Next VegeTale   

Runner beans and market stalls

I once ran a string of stalls, selling fresh produce on market days. My favourite was at the Fremantle markets, where the atmosphere was loud and busy and there always seemed to be something that grabbed my interest, whether it was chatting with regular customers or observing the behaviour of passing people.

I remember in particular, one woman who came every week. She would spend a considerable amount of time picking through every vegetable until, unlike the usual customer who would select the best quality, size and so on, she would look for the worst in each display. For example, if she was buying runner beans, she would look for the driest beans with obvious markings such as bruising, scarring or damage caused by wind and insects. One day I asked why she was deliberately picking out the rubbish vegetables. She answered, with some degree of venom: "They're for my husband. Thats all he deserves".

It certainly saved me time in sorting through for damaged produce.

An occasion to observe human behaviour in various forms came at the end of the day when I dropped the prices of fruit and veg. I would sell as many grapes as could fit in a bag for a dollar. It never failed to amaze me, the lack of moderation of some people. One time a customer took a bag and kept filling and filling and filling it, until the bag split and grapes tumbled everywhere. Fortunately, I had taken his money before his spectacular display of greed.

Everything on the stall would be reduced before the markets closed on Saturday night. I would sell beans for a dollar a bag or six bags for $2. Eggplants went for two for a dollar or 10 for $2, and so on. Every Saturday evening, on closing time a man would come and buy as much produce as he could fit into his shopping bag. But one Saturday he came with his wife, who pleaded with me not to sell him so much as she was the one who had to cook it all.

After 15 years, I left the market stall to travel and try new things, but I will always remember the markets and the customers and their various behaviours.

Craig Harper

Some of the many varieties of beans

Runner beans drawings