Salamanca Market is to Hobart as butter is to bread. Over the past 42 years, the vast Saturday marketplace has become an essential part of the city’s lifestyle and rhythm, as well as a magnet to visitors of Southern Tasmania.
Set between waterfront docks and the striking 1830s Georgian sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place, ‘Salamanca’ has been operating since 1972, when it first opened with just 12 vendors. Now it’s made up of more than 300 stalls packed with local produce, gourmet takeaway, arts and more.
Adrian and Tania Steenholdt’s family have been stallholders since the early years, and they’re still among the farmers and producers from all around the region who arrive at dawn to set up.
“The Steenholdt’s have been trading at Salamanca since 1977,” explains Tania, who, with her husband, Adrian, took over running the family’s fruit stall, Steenholdt’s Organic Produce, in 2006. They specialise in apples from the Steenholdt’s orchard located further south in Petcheys Bay.
“Chris, Adrian’s dad, has grown more than 100 apple varieties over the years, many of which are heritage. Our seasonal top market sellers are Gravenstein, Cox’s
Orange Pippin, Crofton, Pink Kiss and Sturmer Pippin,” she says. “In the summer Chris also grows a variety of apricot called Orange Red – they rarely fruit in the Huon Valley and are just superb.”
The Hmong sellers, who have been at the market since the early 1980s, are also revered for their organic vegetable produce, sold across 10 stalls. Hmong people are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, and the small Tasmanian Hmong community, synonymous with organic agriculture practices, began arriving in Hobart in the late 1970s. They were relocated from
Thai refugee camps after the Communist takeover of Laos in 1975.
Ever since setting up their business at Salamanca, the Hmong produce has become an integral part of many Hobartians’ weekly shop. They also supply many of the city’s best restaurants and food businesses.
Immaculate, rainbow-hued bunches of produce include fresh radishes, purple garlic and a wide selection of Asian greens. All of the vegetables are grown on Hobart’s outskirts and are picked all day each Friday into the early hours of Saturday morning.
“Over the years we’ve noticed more and more people wanting to know where their food is coming from and how it’s produced,” says Marie van de Gumster of Summer Kitchen Bakery. The business has been a Salamanca stalwart since the early 80s, specialising in organic breads, pies and more.
“My partner, John, and I have been coming to Salamanca every week for the last 17 years. It is the perfect opportunity to talk to the people who buy our food about how we bake, and where we source our ingredients from – most of which are local.”
Spending time with her customers is also one of the great pleasures of Salamanca for Anne Ashbolt of Ashbolt Farm. Anne produces award-winning elderflower and elderberry concentrates, sparkling drinks, cold-pressed olive oil and her boastful ‘world’s best’ salad dressings at Ashbolt Farm in the Derwent Valley.
“As well as our regulars in town, we have long-term customers who are from all over Australia; some of them have been purchasing online for the past 15 years!” says Anne. “It’s just lovely when they come and introduce themselves at the stall and
I can put a face to the name.”
Another stall that interstate visitors beat a path to is the Bruny Island Cheese Company. It was established 11 years ago by South Australian Nick Haddow, who is now one of Australia’s most renowned cheesemakers.
The Bruny Island cheeses are produced by hand and matured using traditional European techniques, but “always with a distinctly Tasmanian character,” says Nick.
Also distinctly Tasmanian in flavour and inspiration are Silver Hill Fisch’s boutique seafood sausages, the stars of one of Salamanca Market’s newest stalls. Silver Hill Fisch was established by the dynamic Maja Veit, who combined a passion for Tasmanian seafood with experience gained working at her family’s sausage business, Silver Hill Bratwurst (also at Salamanca Market).
Serving five different varieties of her ready-to-eat salmon and ocean trout sausages, as well as take-home packs, Maja feels that Salamanca is distinctive, even among Tasmania’s other great food events.
“We love sharing our food here,” says Maja. “The vast diversity of people who visit Hobart on a Saturday is just incredible.
Even after so many years, this market seems to be one of those places and experiences people keep coming back for.”
Photography by Chris Crerar.
As seen in Feast magazine, June 2014, Issue 32. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.