What is a laiki? The word in Greek means – “people’s” – so loosely translated one might say laiki means “for the people”. It is in fact a street market known in every village, town or city in Greece, held at least once a week and in larger towns and cities moves around to a different neighborhood every day of the week. It sells vegetables and fruits from local farmers or middlemen who deal with the local farmers, but you will also find produce such as eggs, fish, herbs as well as clothing and other household goods.
Traders and farmers appear early in the morning, set up their stalls and arrange their produce in attractive arrays of colors. As locals start to fill the market, alluring voices grow louder that want your attention and often offer samples. The market starts about 8 in the morning and continues to around 2-3 in the afternoon. The freshest produce will be offered in the morning, however the best bargains can be found later in the day. If you are unsure where your local laiki can be found, go to the general vicinity of where it is and then look for the old ladies with their empty trolleys – they will guide the way. If your Greek is limited – welcome to my world – I would suggest bringing along a few helpful phrases, a dictionary and a good sense of humor. In no time, you will have selected your favorite farmers and they will embrace your attempts at their language.
The concept of a laiki enables you to reduce your carbon footprint, support local farming and buy seasonal produce. Starting in the winter months you will see an explosion of oranges, clementines and other citrus fruits. At the end of March the strawberries will appear alongside with artichokes. Later in the spring, cherries and apricots will compete for your attention. With summer arrives melons and tomatoes, with the grand finale in August when the sweet Greek figs make their entrance. Also, don’t overlook the summer’s small new potatoes fresh out of the ground with such delicate skin it can be peeled off with a spoon. In the fall, apples, pears, pumpkins will entice you. Along with all these seasonal fruits and vegetables you will also be able to buy all the other year-round staple foods needed to create your own laiki cuisine; full of freshness, flavor and color.