You Might Want to Think Twice Before Buying from Romania’s Farmers’ Markets!

  1. Food from Romania’s farmers’ markets may contain higher levels of pesticides and chemicals compared to supermarkets.
  2. Many Romanian peasants have transitioned to using chemicals and pesticides excessively, often disregarding safety instructions for crop treatment.
  3. If you want local, authentic produce, examine the seller’s appearance and the physical characteristics of fruits and vegetables, looking for natural imperfections.
  4. Opting for supermarket products or growing your own food can be safer alternatives due to stricter regulation and quality control.

I grew up eating real food: real fruits and vegetables that were grown on real land farms and orchards here in Romania. Ah, the advantages of being old!

I still remember those fruits and vegetables (or see them in photos): they were not huge, they didn’t look like clones of the same product, they sometimes had hit marks, they would spoil quickly… nothing like the “food” we find nowadays in supermarkets and, unfortunately, farmers’ markets too.

I actually published this article back in 2015. Back then, its title was “Where to Get Real Food in Romania? The Peasant’s Market, of Course!” Things have changed tremendously over the past several years, unfortunately, so I had to rename it and basically rewrite it entirely.

Because food from Romania’s farmers’ markets can actually be even more dangerous (filled with pesticides and chemicals) than what you can find in supermarkets. Crazy, but true.

In the past few weeks, I kept reading news about unhealthy amounts of pesticides and antifungals found in the products sold in Romania, with the highest concentrations (sometimes hundreds of times above the legal limits) being found in products bought from farmers’ markets.

Also read: Planning to Buy a Dirt Cheap Romanian Village House? Learn from My Mistakes!

The articles are in Romanian language – like this one from Observator News – but you can run them through Google Transalte if you want to.

Even more so, I was shocked to find out that even the milk bought from farmers’ markets (or other dairy products) can be… fake. They will have water added to them, they might have less fat than advertised or they might use different types of milk than advertised (like cow’s milk instead of goat). Again, the source in Romanian: here.

Why is it riskier to buy products from farmers’ markets than supermarkets?

While it’s definitely not the rule and you can still find natural, healthy and sometimes almost organically grown products in Romania’s farmers’ markets, there are risks, even though the prices are usually lower.

Since supermarkets are better regulated and also have quality control checks more often – both by the management company, as well as state institutions – the risks of finding products with pesticide levels above those regulated by law are lower.

But, as the aforementioned studies have shown… it’s still a risk. Especially when we’re talking about fruits and vegetables produced outside of the EU’s border, where the laws are a bit more lax.

What should you do then?

our crops
One approach would be what we did: grow your own fruits and veggies! As you can see, they don’t look perfect (but they’re tasty!)

You can still find local products in the supermarkets. I know that many people prefer to support the local producers… but at the same time, we should never do it at the cost of our health.

I personally started to buy almost exclusively from supermarkets a few years now because I had direct exposure to the way peasants grow their crops.

A few years ago, we bought a village house here in Romania. We bought it from a lady who was actually living there and had planted a ton of vegetables in her garden. And we reaped on the benefits, happy that we’re eating fertilizer free and especially pesticide free food. Yeah, right!

PS: If you want to, you can check out my summer’s end video update on Youtube to see some of our crops and get a glimpse at Romanian village life.

Well… months after buying the house, when I was sorting through one of the sheds in the house, I was shocked to find tons of bottles of various pesticides and herbicides, as well as various bags for various purposes.

Asking one of the neighbors if she knew what those were, she gave a vague answer, something like: “Ah, these are substances for the vegetables. They make them last longer and remove all pests. They are very good!”

And while most are indeed created to help you out, there is one big problem: the farmers rarely follow (if they even read) the instructions. Everybody I know in that village (and from other villages) will ALWAYS add at least a bit extra “to be sure”.

If they want their tomatoes ripe sooner than they should, they have a “solution”: they spray some sort of chemicals that unnaturally make them ripe. They add fertilizers as they see fit and are not even aware of the harm they’re doing.

Ask them and they’ll all say that they have the best, healthiest fruits and vegetables. It’s scary.

my son planting vegetables
My son helping out at the village house.

Sure, as I said – not all of them do this. But it’s risky – especially with those who grow crops with the goal of selling them. To make more profits, they will add plenty of chemicals to make them look better and last longer.

Also, the number of real peasants selling home-grown stuff is getting lower and lower as many of them are resellers, selling imported fruits and vegetables.

If you want to make sure you get the real deal, you should pay attention to two important details:

1. The looks of the seller: our peasants have specific clothing and you can easily see, especially on their hands, that they indeed work the ground and live at the countryside.

Talk to them and learn where they’re from. Nowadays, many resellers are trying to trick people by actually hiring old farmers to sell their products, and some will try to lie… but it’s not very difficult to spot the real ones, especially if you make it a habit to visit the same farmers’ market.

2. But most importantly: look at the fruits and vegetables you purchase: if they look like stuff you could get from a supermarket, then they probably are exactly that.

Real fruits and vegetables don’t have perfect shapes, they are smaller, and they have sunburns or other marks that make them imperfect but insanely delicious. That’s the food that you should get, and you will love the taste!

If you live in a Romanian city for a longer period of time, you will learn that some peasants’ markets are better than others and that there are indeed specific days when you’ll get the chance to buy from real peasants.

Simply ask around or visit daily for a week, and you’ll spot the trends. Also, have in mind that most real peasants are people who put great value on religion, so don’t expect to see them in the markets if there’s a holiday!

Pin it for later!

Romanian Farmers Markets Pinterest Pin

I am sure that this is not just a Romanian problem – but since this is a blog about Romania, that’s what I have to cover.

I also find it really sad and scary. Even the products that used to be healthy and clean are no longer so. This is the sad reality we have to deal with, unfortunately.

What do you think, though? Do you have other tricks to spot the real food in farmers’ markets, or do you do just like I do – choose the supermarket ones since there’s a bit more control there?

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12 thoughts on “You Might Want to Think Twice Before Buying from Romania’s Farmers’ Markets!”

  1. Hi Calin

    I read your Romanian experiences with interest, some surprise and always much fun.

    I left Romania 30 years ago, love my new country, but as the time went a nostalgia started to call and we come back for visits. My family had an obsession with good food, i. e. right from the farm, so we grew up with salads, fruits, milk, cheese, chickens, you name it.

    In North America, I go to the Farmers Market, which are on a rotating basis, once a week, in different areas of the city. In my neighborhood is on Thursday , 7:00-!4:00, May to October only, naturally since nothing grows in the fields November to May, in our frigid Canadian winters.

    So, the rest of the year is Supermarket, but we keep eating fruits and vegetables daily and a lot of them. Prices are higher, much higher, but so are the incomes.

    Yes, when back to Romania, we never buy stuff from other countries, and walk around at the market/piata looking for the real peasants, fewer and fewer, fortunately we spot them and their wares.

    Beside family, friends, places, memories and a condo, we come back for the delicious Romanian food, so healthy, beautiful, tasty.

    I’d like to say though that traveling a lot, I hold the French Markets at the top of all markets we visited and shopped at, which were very many. French followed by Italian, unbelievable high quality and variety, prettiness too. Easy to understand how come, but that’s another story.

    Thank you for writing about your family experiences, it makes for a lovely reading.

  2. I don’t get to visit the peasants’ market too often (well, I don’t get to visit anything too often with a toddler by my side 24/7), but husband does purchase stuff from there and so does mother in law. The prices are OK and the produce, if you are careful, is absolutely amazing. There are people who sell the same junk we can purchase in the supermarkets, but there are also many who sell the ‘real deal’, veggies and fruits that actually taste good.

    • Exactly, the markets are starting to get flooded by supermarket products, but you can still find real things relatively easy. I also saw that in Bucharest’s markets it’s more difficult to find real peasants than compared to my home town.

  3. This thread is making me hungry! In reference to your post about your hometown would such a size city be much more likely to have the really good produce as opposed to the bigger sized cities? Are there certain areas of the country more known for their produce than others? We were looking at Nicaragua which has excellent produce grown all year, no winter there. But bugs are bad in the tropics and they use pesticides. Having access to great produce along with great internet makes Romania an easy choice for retirement.

    • You can’t get the climate of Nicaragua here, and peasants still use pesticides and fertilizers (or at least some) to a certain degree. I think it is indeed a bit easier to find better produce in the smaller cities simply because the larger ones approach it as an industry and there are many individuals who purchase supermarket products and sell them in the “peasant” markets, while the real villages are too far away from the big cities. My home city is surrounded by small villages and people come here to sell their stuff. Even driving through the villages can get you good produce as people simply sell them outside of their homes, near the road.

  4. Can not agree more that the markets are way better to get produce and other thing from than supermarket. Need to work on a members only club to keep the “real” peasants from “knock off impostor wannabe peasants” and here is why..

    Impostors are all about the money and tricking you into to parting with yours for less. They will use cheap pesticides labor and genetically enhanced seeds etc. Anything to improve output per dollar. You do not want to know how these Wannabe companies/people increase chicken meat and egg output. If you did you would quit eating it. I have to choke it down here in the United States if i do think of it. So big city mass out put markets are to be avoided.

    PAY THE EXTRA why? You are supporting good people and their practices off looking after you, nature, animals and their gardening first. When they are producing stuff for you they are thinking of natural good and healthy things. They need the money… but they want to do it right. AND I AM MORE THAN WILLING TO PAY FOR THAT WAY OF LIFE!.

    So do not save you special canned jars of goodies. Eat them fast and enjoy life. Buy more encouraging and supporting this much better way off life. Can smell/taste that pepper paste from here.

  5. Finding the healthy food became a problem even in Romania. One can’t find peasants at the peasant markets anymore. Even if the name remains the same “peasant markets”, you can only find merchants selling import stuff. I would recommend “tărguri”, which are like organized markets. A tărg is held one day a week (usually Sunday morning) in an established area of a city.

    • That is partly true – it is more and more difficult to find real peasants selling products in peasant markets in Romania, but it’s still doable. With a bit of training and especially during the summer months, you can spot them.

  6. Yes, one can’t trust even the farmer’s markets these days. I hope I haven’t told this story already. The small Romanian town I used to visit had a Hungarian farmer who specialized in honey. He had a big wagon with many bee hives parked in the field right next to the church rectory we were renovating.

    The bees usually didn’t cause any problems, although occasionally a child would get stung playing in our backyard. But the visiting Germans were the Hungarian’s best customers, buying many jars of honey to take back to Germany. On one such trip, we arrived in the town and noticed the wagon with the bee hives just sat there without the usual buzzing. All the hives were empty.

    Later, we met the Hungarian and he informed us a nearby farmer with a fruit orchard had sprayed his trees with a new powerful pesticide and it had killed all his bees and even the queen bees and bee larvae in his bee hives. He said there was no point in starting up the hives again as the same thing would just happen again. He said the farmer really didn’t need to use such a strong pesticide but he wanted higher yields of more “perfect” fruit. It made me sad and wary of fruit that looked too nice in the farmer’s markets.

    • Great story, and a sad one at the same time. I’ve seen big trucks carrying bee hives into forests or areas away from human activity just to avoid this. Definitely not nice, and tells a lot about what we put into our bodies…


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