Browsing the exotic markets, bazaars and souks of the world it’s easy for the imagination to go wild in these alien environments. The stalls are often filled with unfamiliar items, especially the weird and wonderful fruit and vegetables often on display. Colourful and oddly shaped they could easily be straight off the set of a science fiction movie.
Looking at the image below it is difficult not to imagine Sigourney Weaver with an entourage of futuristically equipped marines moving cautiously among the cocoons of dreaded aliens. Atmospheric music adding to the tension until suddenly a capsule opens and a multi-legged alien infant springs out to start face sucking the nearest human being, and not in a romantic way! Cue erratic camera motion and scene jumping as thousands of space-age rounds get fired in every possible direction within the confines of the extra-terrestrial craft, miraculously without a single ricochet harming anybody.
Back on earth, there is plenty to enjoy about souks, they pulse and throb with activity, locals and tourists mingling for different motives. Narrow, bustling aisles that require careful navigation, the aromatic incense and spices which fill the air and the sounds of stallholders plying their trade. They call out to the passers-by, advertising their wares and latest offers until a potential customer attracts their attention, beginning a seemingly conspiratorial hushed negotiation to get the best price.
Locals pick carefully from the stalls offering fresh fruit and vegetables, expertly squeezing them for ripeness and weighing up their suitability for dinner that evening. Tourists are often stopped dead in their tracks, squinting and staring, picking up the bizarre organic objects just trying to recognise what is in their hand. It is akin to an antique roadshow with many items designed and produced in the past appearing totally alien to our 21st century eyes.
This is a large part of the appeal, the strange vibrancy of the produce adding to the overall feel of being immersed in an alien culture. We are much more used to colourful but otherwise quite bland fruit in comparison, tomatoes, apples, strawberries, potatoes or even artichokes pale beside the multitude of remarkable organic produce found in the markets of South America and Africa or the souks of Oman or Morocco.
They often have equally funky names such as Jabuticaba, African Horned Melon, Cherimoya or Buddha’s Hand any of which will either intrigue or discourage curious tourists.
Possibly the ‘king’ of strange fruits is the durian; which for those that can overcome it’s pungent aroma has a taste described as both heavenly and addictive. The prickly fruit is actually banned in many public places throughout Southeast Asia and yet has an almost fanatical following. It maybe given much praise for flavour but its distinctive odour is often described as similar to rotting onions, sweaty socks, vomit, roadkill and even raw sewage. Hardly likely to endear it to many westerners and yet trying a durian is a “must do” experience for any visitor.
The manner in which strange fruit and vegetables are photographed can obviously accentuate their weirdness and even relatively familiar produce is given an alien makeover if an unusual perspective is found.
It is the genuinely bizarre fruit and vegetables which will continue to attract attention from lenses however. Take the close-up image below; I challenge anybody to look at it and not recall scenes from “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers”.
Perhaps this is a case of look and don’t touch, after all who knows what may happen if you take some of these alien fruit and vegetables home!