Produce Shopping in SanCris
This post appeared first on www.fyvmexico.com as a guest post. Frutas y Verduras – A Guide to the Fresh Regional Produce of Mexico is a digital, interactive field guide that will be available for sale on April 30th. It’s a product I’m very excited about and helping to promote, as I think it is an incredibly useful tool for English-speakers who visit or live in Mexico and enjoy exploring the open-air markets. If it sounds interesting, check it out and reserve your copy today! Buy Your Guide
Shopping for produce in San Cristobal is a delight and your experience can be as varied as the produce you’ll find. From the main city market to small stalls to moving vendors, produce abounds!
Vámonos de compras!
Just as all roads lead to Rome, so too do they all lead to the mercado principal in San Cristobal. This market is big with everything you could possibly need and nearly everything is grown within the region. The innermost area houses the butchers and surrounding the meat area in roughly a semi-circle is a long row of stalls selling mostly fruit and vegetables. From there, small aisles dart out and sections split off for clothing, flowers, baskets, etc. Vendors also spill out into the streets surrounding the market, making this a very lively stop in San Cristobal.
Some produce vendors sell by weight but most in this market sell by medida, or a predetermined amount, usually displayed in small buckets or bowls. For some items such as strawberries or habanero peppers they might have 2 different medida options, small and large.
I enjoy getting to our main market every few weeks but oftentimes it’s too far and too much of a hassle. While there are a few other sizeable open-air markets around town, I tend to rely on the smaller mercadito, found scattered around town and on nearly every city block, oftentimes in the front room of a home. These families have much smaller quantities and the selection may be limited but they always have the Mexican basics: lime, onion, tomato, chiles, chayote, cilantro, etc. These small produce shops are where I get the bulk of my produce staples and I have a few favorite places to buy from along my various walking routes throughout the city.
Smaller yet are the produce vendors who are ambulante, in motion. A few (mostly) women who have just a basket full of produce to sell or a very limited supply of 2-3 items will lay down a tarp on the sidewalk or on a corner and arrange the produce they have for sale. They tend to move throughout the day, sometimes just across the street to avoid being in the sun. Some just carry one item in a bucket and walk up and down the pedestrian street. This is my favorite way to buy fresh handmade blue corn tortillas and strawberries as more often than not while I sit and have a macchiato in one of my favorite cafes someone will stop in and sell me 6 tortillas or a small medidas of strawberries – without me having to look for them.
Also in this ambulante category are the pedi-vendors. Bicycles outfitted with carts are filled up with a few items of whatever is in season and the vendor will pedal up and down the streets, usually playing a particular tune out of a speaker so that you can hear when they are coming and step out of your house to purchase a few onions or tomatoes or whatever you find yourself missing halfway through your recipe. This is a great way to shop in your bathrobe!
On the other end of the spectrum is the wholesale produce market, Merposur. Walking through this market you can quickly determine what is in prime season and what is in shoulder season, simply by the quantity of trucks and mountains of produce you see. For the most part you buy by the crate although there are a few stalls that are selling in small amounts for home use. When I was into canning sauces, marmalades and jams, it was fun to come here for a crate of mangoes or tomatoes when they were ripe and in season.
With so many options for shopping in our local markets, plus the tianguis held every Wednesday and Friday that offers specialty greens and herbs (mostly for the expat crowd) there really is little reason to do your shopping at the big box stores like Chedraui or Bodega Aurera. Take plenty of coins and small bills and enjoy yourself as you #shoplocal and #shopsmall and fill up your reusable bags!
And if you’re feeling bold, don’t forget to ask for a little something extra – “que hay de pilón?” The vendor may throw in an extra strawberry or two, or a few more sprigs of cilantro. Regionally you can also say “me da mi coitan?” Certainly not expected but if you buy several things from one vendor it’s fair game to ask – and a fun way to interact with your produce vendors.
Provechito! (bon apetite)