Arguably the saddest market I’ve ever visited, Mangrove Mountain Markets doesn’t leave me a lot to recommend. You’ll find it held on the second and last Sunday of each month, in the Mangrove Mountain Public Hall. The hall sits in the tiny town of Mangrove Mountain, about an hour and twenty minutes north of Sydney.
Lured in by the hand-lettered signage offering live country music, whip cracking and pony rides, we rounded the corner to find a rusted horse trailer thickly crusted with stamped down manure.
Behind some nationalistic bunting, two saddled white ponies looked glad to be free from the trailer’s filthy confines.
The centrepiece of the simple 1927 timber and fibro hall, is a small stage where the community once showed motion pictures. Draped in another Australian flag, a country singer sits in front of the stage, and provides a whining torch and twang soundtrack for our short market adventure.
At the other end of the mostly empty hall there are six to eight little stalls. Everybody manning them looks up to mark our arrival. We appear to be the only non-stall holders in the house. You can smell desperation and microwaved, hand-made pastries, which are available for sale in the small side kitchen. We dutifully go and examine the town's condiment and jam wares, arranged haphazardly in boxes they haven't bothered to unpack. From the inexpensive collection of random recycled jars with handwritten labels in various spidery scripts, we select a couple of condiments that might work with curry or cheese.
Fruit and vegetables are also cheap, and we buy some out of sympathy more than anything else. The whole place feels a bit depressing - a town of just over seven hundred people that time seems to have forgot.
Ten minutes up the road in Kulnura however, we found the cure for everything that ailed us. It’s another outlet of my favourite green grocer, Sciberras Fresh. I usually visit the son’s outlet of this family-run business out in Freemans Reach.
Mum owns this one, and it’s equally as exciting. Snapping fresh, seasonally appropriate greens abound.
What's even better is if you take greens home from here and store them properly, you'll get three weeks out of them, which is two more weeks than I get from greens bought from Sydney green grocers.
Pricing is their other key advantage. Here a bucket bearing two hands of bananas will set you back four bucks; and a bunch of basil is yours for just a single buck.
We picked up a whole box of potatoes – big enough to make us enough two-person serves of mash to stock us up for winter – for just six dollars. I’ve never spent more than fifty dollars in either of the Sciberras Fresh stores in order to come home with enough fresh fruit and vegetables to push our fridge to full capacity. They're well worth the trip.
Sciberras Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
1213 George Downes Drive, Kulnura
Ph: (0419) 994 817