We’re noticing a resurgence in the need for the greengrocer. A little like your own pantry (with a cash register), the greengrocer instils the culture of shopping on the way home for dinner, picking up a few vegetables for the evening meal, some tinned tomatoes for sugo, some cheeses for after main course. The first word that comes to mind with greengrocers is community. Often you’ll find the staff sharing stories with the customers and vice versa, or offering cooking tips, discussing the flavours of products and who won the footy.

These hubs are expanding their repertoire to feed us, providing much in the way of organic produce and encouraging us to not buy in bulk so much but to buy our food thoughtfully. And in a world where anonymous supermarkets can try to control so much of what we eat, we like these alternatives that are opening. Here are a few of our favourites.

Clay Fine Food & Health

It’s lovely to see the term ‘fine food & health’ used in a shop title. The two should and do work hand-in-hand when treated with respect and intelligence and that’s what they do at Clay. A study in retro elegance with a modern sensibility, Clay brings together quality with an awareness of the seasons. They’ll track down heirloom vegetables and fruit and source good muesli (such as Flip Shelton’s mixes), sell Holy Goat cheeses and offer some fancy ciders. Their focus is organic and you can’t help but get caught up in the good feeling in the room. This is what seasonal, natural, organic food is all about – a good life.

719 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
(03) 9349 3957

Smith & Maloney

Along the Brunswick East patch of Lygon Street, Smith & Maloney keep customers coming back not just because they stock a wealth of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetable as well as delicious organic wines and cheeses that include beautiful Australian and European choices. They also keep their customers laughing and encourage a dialogue of good food and good fun with their own quirky style and distinctive north-of-the-river vibe.

57 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
(03) 93811416

Leaf, Elwood

With a focus on organic as well as a good selection of gluten-, wheat- and dairy-free products, Leaf is a hive of activity with local families and regulars keeping the place buzzing. Flowers are part of the stock here too, so fill up your pantry and your vases while also pondering which kitchen gadget you may need next. This shop goes a little further than simple food and other produce and also provide the locals with a delivery service.

Shop 111, 113 Ormond Road, Elwood
(03) 9531 6542

Pure Organic Grocer

Pure is plump full of organic goodness. Not only selling the freshest fruit and veg straight from the markets daily, they also sell organic wines and beers, beautiful chocolates, oils, spices, milk, cheeses and specialty beauty products. With an in-house nutritionist and very helpful staff, there is strong support and advice about the health benefits of their produce.

23 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park
(03) 9699 6405

Plump Organic Grocery

You have to love the smells that emanate from all these shops. Hints of garlic, salt, cured pork meat, nuts and sugar all meld together to keep you in there hunting for good food and Plump is no different. A small shop on Ballarat Street in Yarraville, the wooden shelves hold everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to mayonnaises, vinegars, oil, ice-creams, legumes and biodynamic and organic meats. The wine selection is small but their house wine – the white, an organic Semillon – is certainly worth a try.

24 Ballarat Street, Yarraville
(03) 9687 6422

Vegetable Connection

A stayer in the greengrocer market and much loved and supported by the Fitzroy locals, Vegetable Connection’s fresh fruit and vegetables are consistently good as are the breads, cheeses and tinned fish as well as the pasta sauces and organic juices. They aren’t strictly organic here but have a lot of organic product available as well as wild mushrooms and truffles flown in from France when seasons allow. Keep an eye on their website for when these (expensive) treats arrive.

255 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 3104