The Limerick Market
Vegetarian shopping made easy in Limerick City!
Limerick has a reputation for many things; fine vegetarian food is not one of them. While most of the stereotypes surrounding Limerick are utterly baseless, it is true that for too long there was little the city could offer vegetarians. That has all changed and the Limerick Market held every Saturday morning is a source of varied and exotic vegetarian fair of the highest quality.
I have been going to the Limerick Market since I was about ten and it has changed immeasurably in that time. Originally, the market was a place where people went to buy cheap fruit and vegetables, eggs and meat directly from the farmers at a lower cost than what the supermarkets offered. Several stalls sold items of a semi-legal nature and those who were willing to take a chance and not ask too many questions often got great ‘bargains’.
Today the market is much more regulated and many of the old stalls have disappeared. While there was a clear need to inject new life and modernise, it is heartening to see many of the original stallholders still in operation and I do hope that the market doesn’t become over-sanitised and lose its rogue element. In a reversal of what used to happen, today, people go the market to buy high quality food unavailable in the supermarket, food that is generally more expensive than that which shops have to offer. For us vegetarians, it is pleasing to note that probably less then 10% of the stalls sell meat or fish and vegans have an ample selection as well.
Those who went to World Vegetarian Day in Dublin this year may have noticed that four of the stalls there were from Limerick, all of which sell exclusively vegetarian food at the Saturday Market in Limerick. The market has a very wide selection of cheeses, many homemade, which should satisfy every taste. There is an almost overwhelming array of olives from around the world in an amazing selection of marinades and herbs. The range of salads is fantastic and it would be impossible to try them all in one day. My personal favourite is the butter bean and chilli, but the couscous and roasted vegetables is also excellent. A number of stalls sell bread such as delicious foccacias and the much-loved mushroom and walnut.
The choice of fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables is excellent and the carrots, picked that morning, are reassuringly misshapen and covered with genuine earth!
There is an unrivalled selection of chutneys, mustards and salsas plus homemade chilli sauces that will test your heat tolerance. An exclusively organic stall sells vegetables, herbs and flowers and much of the indoor area is devoted to plant stalls. Another stall sells seafood and while most is fish-based, there is an enormous selection of seaweeds from marinated kombu to sea asparagus and a seaweed tapenade that is fantastic. Of course, my wife sells her vegan truffles and there are a number of other stalls catering for those with a sweet tooth.
There is, to my mind, no place offering such a wide array of top quality vegetarian food outside of Dublin. There is also no place I would rather be at seven o’clock on a Saturday morning. The mixture of stallholders from all walks of life creates a unique atmosphere with a friendliness and camaraderie that no supermarket could ever equal. I would urge everybody to come down some Saturday and experience the market for yourselves. Along with the semi sun-dried tomatoes, organic squashes and homemade pasta sauces, you will come away with an altogether different perception of Limerick.Aidan Hehir