The biggest choice for fresh produce- brought straight from the regions to the capital - can be found at the Station Market, which is semi-open air and much cleaner than it was five years ago, though far from European hygiene standards. You still get raw chicken sitting next to eggs and cheese, and pieces of meat hanging in the open (and before buying you should check the skin for an inspector’s stamp). But you can avoid the sight, and smell, of this as there are sections of the market dedicated solely to fruit and vegetables, with gypsies and village women shouting out their wares and complimenting you and praising God for your time and money.
You’ll also find individuals set up with cardboard boxes and buckets on the roadside around town (and in villages). This will be a rare sight soon, as in its pursuit of Western hygiene standards, Tbilisi City Hall has begun removing street-sellers to encourage them to sell from controlled areas like the Station Market. Perhaps, in five years’ time, all Georgia will have left is the supermarkets.
So, while you can- get it fresh from the villages. Of course, there is no guarantee that the home-grown goods come without a coating of pesticides or unseen grubby fingerprints, but if you make sure to wash anything you buy thoroughly before eating, you’ll notice the “straight-from-the-farm” taste difference compared to the supermarket produce.
In the West, we have become accustomed to “beautiful” fruit and instinctively avoid blemished skins, such as brown spots on apples, but these are usually perfectly natural and are a sign that what you’re getting “grew as God planned it”.
We at Where.ge are supporters of ‘Buy Georgian’ and recommend you do the same while you’re here. A huge percentage of the country’s population supports itself in some way through agriculture, so turn away from the cheaper Turkish imports and go local. Worth trying are the juice cucumbers, rosy tomatoes, oranges from the Black Sea region and hazelnuts from all over (now much cheaper since the boom of the past two years, with everyone and his neighbor scrabbling for a slice of the nut profit), the grapes late summer-early autumn come in all shapes, colors and size, the tangerines at Christmas, and the green herbs year-round, for which Georgian cuisine is well-known.