Located close to the Tbilisi Central Railway Station, Dezerter Bazaar is the largest farmers market in Tbilisi. The bazaar became known as the Dezerter Bazaar in the 1920s, after the deserting soldiers from the Russo-Georgian War started selling their weapons and equipment at this location. The market covers an area of over 2,000 square meters, that is without taking into account all the stalls that stretch outside the official borders of the bazaar. After the remodel in 2012, covered indoor as well as an open-air sections were added to the market, further expanding this massive congregation of vendors. Along with the fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products, spices, and other food items, the bazaar offers a wide variety of non-food products such as souvenirs, kitchen appliances, clothes, and so much more.
Churchkhela also known as Georgian Snickers is a sausage-shaped candy made with grape must, nuts, and flour. To make traditional churchkhela, walnut halves are threaded onto a long string, repeatedly dipped into thickened with flour grape juice, and sun-dried for 5 to 6 days. This candy is enjoyed both as an everyday snack and dessert at the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Tklapi aka fruit leather is a popular sweet and/or sour snack made with plums, apricots, figs, and other fruit. Cooked and pureed fruit are spread thinly onto a sheet of paper or plastic, and sun-dried.
The market offers a great variety of pickled and fermented vegetables from fermented cabbage, carrots and beets to pickled green tomatoes, garlic and peppers.
Ajika – sauce made with peppers, garlic, herbs, and spices. Sometimes tomatoes are added to the sauce as well.
Kupati – spicy Georgian sausage made with pork, beef, herbs, and spices.
Dried and fresh smelt.
Cheese is a staple of Georgian cuisine, and one of the most popular cheeses in Georgia is Sulguni. Sulguni comes in three varieties: fresh, semi-hard, and smoked. It is usually made from cow’s milk, but can be made from buffalo and goat milk as well. It is mozzarella like in flavor with dense and elastic texture. Sulguni is widely used in baking and is one of the main ingredients in Khachapuri – Georgian cheese bread. Smoked Sulguni has denser and more robust flavor, golden brown crust, and a hole in the middle.
Georgian Gouda – hard sheep’s milk cheese with a pungent flavor from the mountains of the Eastern Georgia. Traditional Gouda is aged in sacks made from sheep’s skin, but nowadays the cheese is aged in plastic bags.
Sweet pastry with farmers cheese filling.
And last but not least is a ‘famous’ soviet-era broom made from sorghum! Pretty much every open-air market in the republics of the former Soviet Union will have a few stalls showcasing these yellow and red brooms. Modernity hasn’t been able sweep away this household item from bazaars yet.
To experience Georgian culinary diversity, spend a few hours at this enormous market by sampling cheeses, ajikas, and various snacks from different regions of Georgia. Purchase some cheese, freshly baked bread, and some delicious fruit and vegetables to enjoy at a picnic later. Happy travels!