Pictured above: “Brother So” sells produce at Star Ferry Pier on Wed.
PRICE HK$ 16-30 per catty (1 catty = 650g) depending on the market. Farmers at each of the markets generally charge similar prices. In contrast, supermarkets charge HK$ 15-17 per 250g for Mainland grown organic vegetables. Cheapest: Fan Ling. Most Expensive: Mei Foo.
FOOD RATING Locally grown means produce is picked fresh, retaining more nutrients and flavor. It also means a limited selection because vegetables are seasonal. Winter for example is a great time for mixed salad greens, cherry tomatoes and carrots.
GREEN RATING Deep Green. Organically grown. Low food miles. No packaging.
LOCATION & HOURS
Mei Foo MTR Exit B. Under the Kwai Chung road flyover, next to the Mei Foo wet market: SUN 11am – 5pm (YMCA)
Tuen Mun, Crossroads Village, 2 Castle Peak Road (opposite Gold Coast Phase I): SAT 10am – 4pm (FVMCS)
Tai Po, Tai Wo Rd next to the fire station: SUN 9am – 5pm (FVMCS)
Fan Ling, Ma Po Po Farm across from the Belaire Monte housing development: WED and SUN 2pm – 6pm (only one farm)
Local farmers markets have become so mainstream in North America that there are now questions about whether there are too many of them! Here in Hong Kong though they are still quite rare and small in scale. Less than 3% of the food consumed in Hong Kong is locally produced and the vast majority of our vegetables come from the Mainland.
Local vs. Mainland
9 billion tons of untreated household sewage and 260 million tons of untreated human excrement are discharged into the Mainlands rivers, lakes and land areas. Invariably, water is withdrawn from these same rivers and lakes to irrigate the crops we eat. How’s that for appetizing? In Hong Kong, you can be assured that certified local organic farms have both their soil and water tested annually by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
Vegetables from the Mainland travel long distances by truck to get here, giving them significantly higher food miles. As a result of the long travel time, they need to be harvested at least 4.5 days prior to arriving on store shelves in Hong Kong. On the other hand, local produce is usually picked the day before, so not only do they taste better (sweet corn for example, begins to convert sugar into starch as soon as it’s picked), they retain more of their nutrients. According to this Harvard paper, “foods grown far away that spend significant time on the road, and therefore have more time to lose nutrients before reaching the marketplace.”
About Our Local Markets…
The disadvantage of local farmers markets is that they can only produce seasonal vegetables, so the selection is limited. You won’t find many bell peppers for example because they are not well suited to be grown in Hong Kong’s climate. Most local farmers also do not have greenhouses so the quality of produce may be more variable.
The markets themselves tend to be small, with between 5 to 10 stalls each. They only sell vegetables and depending on the season may have some tropical fruits. Meat is not available, but if you go early enough on Sunday to the Star Ferry market, you may be able to snag a few highly coveted Kadoorie Farm eggs, which always sell out (limit of 6 eggs per person).
The farmers generally speak limited English, so without Cantonese you miss out on the interaction with the growers, which is one of the things North Americans love about local farmers markets. The markets are run by various non-profit organizations, and there are no prices posted on the produce. The farmers at each of the markets tend to charge the same price.
For those trying to live more sustainably, the markets are a most welcome addition to the Hong Kong food scene! They are also a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon and are worth repeated visits as the varieties change with the seasons.