I love the smells: it’s a rich mixture of fresh dirt, ripe veggies, juicing fruits and people.
I love the sights: people moving closely around with bags or carts of produce and rows of colorful veggies & fruits just waiting to be taken home.
I love the sounds: laughter, noise and rich conversations rumbling around me.
Hmmmm… I really love farmer’s markets, especially in Costa Rica where is goes ALL YEAR LONG! Most things can be grown year round, but a lot are seasonal too. Like mangoes, they are only in season April through August. I was SO SAD that I had to live without mangoes for 7 months!
Going to the market is so much more than just buying food for the week. We meet people and recognize others that past us by (we are easily recognize because we are “The Gringos of San Ramon”). We have our favorite stands that we go to every week and slowly develop a relationship with the people we buy produces from. I look, feel and smell each fruit and veggie before we buy them. I think of different tasty recipes I can make throughout the week with my hand-selected produces. To be honest, I don’t find that same atmosphere in a grocery store, who does?
San Ramon has the biggest feria in the Western Central Valley area. It has 3 long rows filled with stands selling veggies, fruit, raw cheese, flowers, baked goods, jewelry and clothing. My favorite stand, of course, is the organic one called "Tico Organicos S.A.". Juan Luis, and his family sell their own organic produces and eggs along with produces from other organic farmers. I am so grateful for them and the high-quality produces they sell. They even sell homemade, grounded dried herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, etc…). Sure, it is a small stand compare to the big “organic-only” feria in San Jose that we went to with our midwife, but it is better then nothing!
We've made it a route when we go to the feria... first we go to the organic stand, then we go get some fresh "tortillas" which is basically fresh corn mixed with raw cheese than grilled with more raw cheese. Jon calls it the "Costa Rican Pizza". It is really delicious.
Next we finish the rest of our shopping. Sometimes the organic doesn't have everything I need, so we go to our favorite stands and pick up the rest of the stuff. 95% of the people are local farmers selling their stuff and I can't get over how fresh everything is! I guess it is because we lived in Jaco for half the year and had to get by with "okay" produces. One major thing we’ve noticed is how BIG a lot of the root veggies are. I’m talking about beets that are bigger than softballs, carrots that are the size of 3-4 regular ones put together and potatoes that look like they’ve been shot with growth hormones (they really don’t do that). Most ticos (Costa Ricans) will tell you it’s a special secret, but personally I think its from all the rich black soil and lava that is found throughout the country.
One thing that is not easy to find around here is garlic grown in Costa Rica. All the garlic sold in the feria and supermarkets are from CHINA! Thankfully, there is one stand that sells Costa Rican garlic, but they don’t always have a consistent supply (like today… no garlic! boohoo!). That is one thing I will for sure be planting LOTS of in our garden in the near future, I hope.
To give you an idea of how the system works here, almost everything is sold by the kilo (2.2 pounds). Example, today mangoes were 3 kilos for 1,000 colones (little less then $2.00) and that’s about 10 medium size mangoes for about .20 each! Eggs are also weighted by the kilo. Typically 1 kilo is about 15-17 eggs and usually sell for about 1,300 colones (a little over $2.00). Getting the idea? The produces are so much cheaper here than in Jaco and the produces weren’t as fresh or organic either! All the stuff were bought in mass quanity and sold by guys who make a living selling conventionally raised veggies and fruits that they didn’t even grow. It was hard because I couldn’t ask the usual questions… Did you grow these veggies? Do you use chemicals? because they didn’t know. So, I am so grateful to be able to meet people at the market who grow their own stuff, know that everything was picked fresh in the morning and brought to the market locally.
Well, now you know what I do on my Friday afternoons! Hehe!