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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Costa Rican Farmers' Market

Sunday, February 14, 2010

So you think you’ve seen a farmers’ market, eh? I’ve got news for you! At today’s market in the central square of San Rafael, Heredia, it felt like we were at a holiday festival or a street fair. The fruit and veggie stands spanned two blocks and the roadway was crowded with people - children in strollers or hands held tightly by parents, grown-ups chatting, teenagers kissing and flirting, wandering vendors selling lottery tickets, people exiting the large Catholic church across the park dressed in their Sunday finery and of course, the competing barkers in each booth, calling out the attributes of their goods.

It probably took us 30 minutes just to walk through the throngs from one end to the other, making mental note of the best-looking tomatoes or cilantro or papaya for our eventual purchases. There were big bins of potatoes, onions, broccoli, garlic, tomatoes, avocados, sweet chilies (alas, no jalapeno in sight!), mangos, ripe pineapple, gorgeous strawberries and other berries, small green pears, ripe watermelon, cantaloupe, corn, beets, and to us norte americanos a few other mysterious-looking vegetables. Plus, a few stalls offered colorful flowers for sale including orchids (which tempted me greatly!), red ginger, bird of paradise and other unfamiliar but beautiful blossoms. And bananas!!

Entire stalls were devoted to this popular fruit and its relative, a Costa Rican favorite, plantain. (Note to self: I must learn to cook that.) At the stands offering coconuts, the vendor would simply cut off the top and insert a straw for the buyer to drink the sweet juice directly. It was all quite a vision! We bought two bags full of goodies and spent perhaps $10. I really lost count as it was all in colones and I often simply held out my hand full of coins and let the seller select the proper amount. The prices were very cheap!

This was truly a fantasy come true for Layne and me. In imagining our lives here in Costa Rica, we had envisioned living close enough to a town center to be able to walk to the farmers’ market each week. And obviously, this is exactly what many residents do to fill their cupboards for their week’s fare. It also seemed like a community party of sorts, with laughter and friendly greetings all around.

As we strolled back to our villa, we happened upon a small restaurant with whole chickens roasting on a spit. It smelled so good! We stopped and bought one for our dinner. For only 4350 colones, or about $7, we got a large chicken, a package of corn tortillas and a baggie of pickled veggies. The roasted bird is delicious, tender and juicy and well seasoned. We plan a dinner of chicken, roasted potatoes and mango, and some not-hot guacamole as an appetizer. We do miss those jalapeno peppers!


  1. You may have to grow your own jalapenos---if you can find plants or seeds. Farmer's markets are one of my most favorite things in the world. We have a good one in Bend, but it's only open in the summer.

  2. How fabulous! Can't wait to read more of your adventures. Give my love to Layne.

  3. Fantastic, I can't wait to then you will have learned your way around, and become settled in. Great sharing mom. Love you madly. lynne