The vegetable market, Mercado Municipal in Portuguese, is the place to go for your local greens in Ericeira. This is also the spot for seasonal fruit, wild fish and some craft work.
Catia is the beautiful 21 year-old at the busiest stall in the vegetable market. Together with her mother, Catia sells the vegetables and seasonal fruits that her family grows, only 3 km from the market itself.
The Vegetable Market Runs in the Family
The family business started four generations ago, with Catia’s great grandparents. At that time, the family used a donkey to help with transporting their produce from the fields to the market. With the second generation, came the cart. And later on, the van.
Catia’s mother took over the business sixteen years ago, when
in her 60’s, her grandmother’s health started to deteriorate. Five years later, after Catia’s grandfather passed away, it was time for Catia’s father to leave his job and to take over the work on the land.
In their usual friendly manner, the family agrees to tell us all about their vegetables, their land, the business and their history.
Did your husband know the job when he first took over Catia’s grandfather’s work?
“He had been digging around the vines before, without knowing much about growing vegetables. But he learnt as he went along. This is something you learn quickly! Besides, we had the machines and the tractor, so it was not difficult”.
What has changed in the vegetable market?
“We now grow things that my parents did not, such as kale, Romanesque, red cabbage, long-leafed spinach, red onions and aubergine. People were not used to these vegetables, back then. My father already had courgettes, but this did not sell well at the time”.
You are the youngest and the busiest team here. What is the recipe for a successful vegetable market?
“We are only busy at weekends. But the recipe is good quality produce and healthy vegetables. People can tell the difference when they eat them”.
The vegetables I buy from you are always impeccable. What is your secret?
“We harvest every day and sell what we harvest straight away. We plant a little every week, so we always have fresh produce”.
With harvesting and selling everyday, your days must be long.
“At the weekend, we start preparing our produce at 4:30 am, and we arrive at the market by 6:30 am. After lunch, we work on the land, sometimes until 10 pm, in the summer. But, the days are shorter in winter”.
How many people work with you in the land?
“My mother helps when she can, with washing and preparing things for the market. My aunt helps too, she is a widow.
Often my neighbors come to help with harvesting, especially the potatoes. We share whatever has been collected and they are happy to have potatoes for the rest of the year. Even Catia’s friends often come to help.
Sometimes we pay someone, for trimming the trees, mostly. But we don’t employ anyone full-time. This would be too expensive and would not pay off”.
You also give recipes for preparing your vegetables.
“I pass on what my customers teach me. If we like something, we are happy to pass it on”.
Tell me about your land
“The land is near Foz do Lisandro beach, in Senhora do O.
Our land is the first one on the left hand side – facing the river, with the church to your left. How big is it? Quite big, 12.000 square meters, says my husband”.
How is the vegetable market business in the winter?
“In the winter, there is less to sell and fewer clients. The only thing doing well in the greenhouse is the lettuce. The cucumber is small, the tomatoes not as beautiful…
August is the best month. Everything flourish in the summer.
We work like ants: twice as hard in the summer when there is plenty, and hopefully store for the winter”.