Archive for the ‘the little’ Category

The variety of fruits and vegetables in Ecuador are incredible, and incredibly inexepensive.  Problem is, we have absolutely no idea what some of them are, so when we saw a posting on the internet regarding taking a tour through one of the local Indigenous markets, with two local Cuencano women.  We decided it would be fun. 

We met at 10:00 a.m. at the Abril de 12 Mercado, along with 11 or 12 other Gringos.  We stood outside the market and were given a few tips about bargaining, an important one was to not try to get a lower price on what you are buying, but rather try to increase the quantity.  If the vendor offers 4 avocados for a $1.00, say you want 5.  

It was also suggested that we establish relationships with  particular vendors, a sort of “loyalty” program.  The seller will know you are a regular and give you the best prices.  We were told that loyalty goes along way, if your favorite vendor doesn’t have what you need, like cucumbers or something, she will go to a different stand/stall, (sometimes the other vendor might be her sister or cousin) negotiate a good price, and bring the items to you! 

Also, if you make a substantial purchase, maybe $5.00, $6.00, or more, you should ask for a “Yapa” (spelling??), which is a gift,  it may be a couple of tomato’s or a few peaches, just a thank you for your business. 

We also learned that there are little soap operas within these markets, one lady might not like another one, etc.  We were told to be careful and maintain your relationships, if you buy from a vendor, that your usual seller doesn’t like, your prices may go up.  LOL!!

Our guides took us to their favorite Pork vendor, everyone was offered a taste of the roasted pig.  I took a pass on that, but Michael, a guy who is not fond of pork, said it was delicious.  We also got to visit the chicken lady, the beef lady, and the fish lady. 

The fish lady was cool, yelling out stuff like typical fish mongers (We had absolutley no idea what she was saying, but it sounded cool).  Several people bought some Corvina Fillets (Sea Bass), and they were given a “Yapa” without even asking for one.  The Yapa was a little red fish about 4 inches long, we have no clue what the fish was, or how the heck you could get a fillet out of the little thing, but it was a gift. 

The meat areas of these kind of markets can smell kinda funky, but this one was really clean and well ventilated.  We didn’t take any pictures in these sections simply because cow legs, pig heads, hanging slabs of beef, whole or plucked chickens, don’t make a picturesque photo, well, at least not to me.

We have been in three other markets in Cuenca that are similar to this one, however the Abril de 12 Mercado is off the tourist track, a genuinely local market.  We were told the prices here are lower because of that reason. 
I don’t think we saw a single Gringo besides those belonging to our little group.  We attracted alot of attention due to this, some people stared, but most had big smiles.

A few pics from the market:

Vibrant colors, so, so fresh veggies and fruit.

Some of the stalls in the market. 

Every time we have been in these type of markets, you see young children sitting in the booths.

We see sacks of all kinds of different grains in these markets, and again, we didn’t know what they were.  It was interesting to learn about them, we were told that the corn kernels sold here were way better for making popcorn than the stuff you buy in the store, and that the ground corn makes outstanding corn bread.  A pound of the ground corn was $0.30.  I have not tried to make the corn bread yet, but they were right about the popcorn, with this stuff you don’t even need butter.

A pic of me and a few other people learning about the grains.

A picture of the fruits in the market, we love this type of basket.  They come in a huge variety of sizes, we frequently see women of ALL ages carrying Gigantic baskets like these on their backs, hauling an assortment of stuff in the city as well as down the road behind our house.   

One of the Cuencano women that was helping with the tour of the market negotiated the price on a basket for someone in the group.  The facial expressions were hysterical as the two women bantered back and forth.  Our Cuencano guide prevailed.  She got the vendor down to $6.00 from $8.00,
it was a true negotiation.

We moved on through the market, but one Gringa went back and bought a basket on her own.  When she returned to the group the Cuencano woman asked what she paid, and the look on her face was PRICELESS.  She was upset because she knew she could have gotten it for at least a $1.00 less!!

I wish I had brought a pen and paper to take notes!!!! A fruit in this picture is one that we had wondered about when we had seen it markets, it is on the right side of the pic, it is kind of an ivory color with purple stripes.  We now know it is referred to it as a “Dulce” (sweet) cucumber.  We bought one, DELICIOUS.  

A few more pics of fruit we bought in the market:
We purchased  three Granadilla. It was amazing how light weight they are considering their size. You use your finger nail to make a seam around the middle of the fruit and the skin pops off, you remove the pith, and a little mound of what looks like fish eggs are inside, black seeds in sacks of gray liquid.  It looks like something out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, but it is really, really delicious. In a million years I would not have eaten it, just based on what it looked like, but it is  really refreshing.  
The other wierd looking fruit is called “Tuna”, not to be confused with
“Atun” – , Tuna Fish in the States.  Tuna is a Prickly Pear or Cactus fruit.  It is in abundance here, and is supposed to be a great for cure for Diabetes.  One thing that is hard to get used to with alot of the fruit here,  is that the flesh of the fruits, as well as the seeds, are all eaten.  Makes an interesting crunch with the sweetness of the fruit.  
We also bought Taxo’s, known in the states as Banana Passionfruit, Cherimoya (cannot even describe the sweetness, but LOTS of seeds), and Orito, which are tiny bananas, they are wonderful, really rich and sweet.  Sorry, we ate these fruit before taking pictures, too good to wait for. 
The round green fruit in the picture is just simply the local oranges, yeah oranges, I know they are green, but they are juicy and sweet, we have to stand over the sink when we eat them.

This is a close up off the weird looking interior of the Grandailla fruit.
 Michael said that it look’s like something you would find in you Grandfather’s handkerchief.  Way too funny, the fruit is great, you just kind of inhale the sack and seeds. 

The Tuna fruit comes in either red or white flesh, you don’t know until you open it up.

We also learned what area of the market to purchase potatos in. (The “inside” vendors buy from the “outside” potato guys, and then they add a profit, so you should buy from the “outside” potato guys) . 

The variety of potatos here is amazing.  We are going to make Locros de Papas, a typical Ecuadorian potato soup with cheese and avocados – we were told to use the  “Super Chola” type, the big red ones on the bottom left of the pic.

The incredible variety of potatos.   We bought the finger potatos, the little red and white ones in the silver bucket, but I haven’t cooked them yet.

There isn’t alot of “processed” food in our area of Ecuador.  We have learned to make our own salsas, pasta sauces and dishes with local grains such as Quinoa. I substituted Quinoa for rice when I made chicken stuffed red peppers the other day and it was great. I think it is easier to cook than rice, it tastes good and the health benefits are enormous, it is often referred to as a “super food”

Shopping in the local markets for the fresh fruits and vegetables needed for cooking is fun, and interesting.

By the way, the cost of the tour of the market was $5.00, and all profits go to a local charity called “Hearts of Peace”.  They buy shoes, clothing, and blankets for the children of the women that work in the Feria Libre Mercado.   

So, we learned alot, got to try great fresh veggies, meat, fruit and our experience will help children in need.  Can’t beat that. 

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