PEI

From plantains to tomatillos, Charlottetown produce store aims to meet demand for international foods

At Freshest fruits and vegetables store in Charlottetown, you'll find plenty of basics; apples, oranges and P.E.I. potatoes. But there's also a lot more that you might not find at a big chain grocery store.

Owners hope to appeal to newcomers, as well as long-established Islanders

Burhan and Luba Kaboush opened a second grocery store, in part because of increased demand for international foods. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

At Freshest fruits and vegetables store in Charlottetown, you'll find plenty of basics; apples, oranges and P.E.I. potatoes.

But there's also a lot more that you might not find at a big chain grocery store. The shelves are stocked with plantains, tomatillos, passion fruit, aloe vera, and much more.

Luba Kaboush, who owns the store with her husband Burhan, says with growing diversity on the Island there is a demand for a wider range of food items.

"We wanted to get the consumer to get all that product that's interesting."

'26 years ago we didn't have all this'

Kaboush came to P.E.I. from Syria 26 years ago. She says back then, she couldn't find foods from home like fresh figs and sour plums. 

"I looked everywhere for produce, but you have to order it from Montreal to bring it here, and you have to pay shipment, you have to pay everything because nobody was here for us back then," Kaboush said.

"Now, I see these people, newcomers, and I say to them 'you are lucky,' because 26 years ago we didn't have all this."

The store has a variety of fruits and vegetables from around the world. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Kaboush and her husband opened a grocery store, Mango, seven years ago, in an effort to provide a wide selection of affordable food. With a growing international population on the Island, Kaboush said she saw a demand for another store.

"We see a demand for good quality, good prices fruits and vegetables," Kaboush said. 

Kaboush says she sources many products locally, and gets the international foods from suppliers in Montreal and Toronto. 

Foods from afar

Born in Brazil, and with Lebanese heritage, Olinda Gossen has lived on P.E.I. for nearly 50 years, and has seen the food and cultural landscape change. 

She says in recent years, she's had little trouble finding almost any food she's looking for. But when shopping at Freshest, she was in for a surprise when she discovered the store carried a fruit called unaab. 

Olinda Gossen says she's usually able to find most foods she's looking for on the Island, but she was surprised to find a fruit that she didn't think was available in Canada. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

"When I was in Lebanon last September, I found it on a tree and I said 'we don't have that in Canada,'" Gossen said.

"And I can't believe it he [the staff member] just told me he had it. I'm shocked."

Appealing to long-time Islanders

Kaboush is happy to give people from around the world a taste of home, but she also wants to appeal to long-established Islanders curious about trying new foods.

"Since we opened on Friday, it was really awesome, we had a few Canadians actually ask about what is this, what is this, and actually bought it," Kaboush said. 

"It's like when we learned, we came to P.E.I., you eat turnip and potatoes. We never saw turnip in my life, you know. So we got used to it."

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About the Author

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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