Food shopping in Ecuador is an absolute delight. You can take your pick from many local Mercados, a cooperative market or even the very modern SuperMaxi supermarkets. If you are indeed looking for organic food then you are better off visiting a cooperative market in your area. The one featured in this page is in San Joaquin, Cuenca.
This store is owned and managed by the cooperative. There are several of these stores in the Azuay Province (Cuenca is the capital) and also in the Guayas Province (Guayaquil being the capital)
No chemicals or artificial fertilizers are used in the farming at the cooperative. In some garden beds they use"companion planting"practices. This is where the natural insect repelling and nitrogen fixing crops (and other beneficial plants) are grown immediately next to lettuces etc. Crops are rotated between different beds to minimize any risks of damage from soil-born pathogens. Fresh organic material is also continually bought in to make new beds and freshen used ones.
This array of food cost a total of $12.00. Prices are unbelievably affordable whereas back home you would think twice before buying everything organic. To give you an idea here are some prices of produce in the Cooperative Market.
Red Pepper - $1.61 per kilo
Tomatoes - $1.00
Limes - 0.81 cents per kilo
Mangoes 0.94 cents per kilo
Purple cauliflower - 0.79 cents per kilo
Potatoes 0.62 cents per kilo
Hot Chillies 0.90 cents kilo
Carrots - 0.95 cents per kiloper kilo
Spinanch - 0.80 cents per kilo
Eggplant - 0.85 cents per kilo
Did you know that there are over 4,000 different varieties of potatoes grown in the Andes area. Many of these never go to market as they are traded amongst highland and lowland communities and even used as gifts for special occassions such as a wedding. These different varieties are generally farmed with little or no agrochemicals and seem to adapt well in the colder climate of the Andes. The photo above are of many different varieties that are available at the local Feria Libre Mercado in Cuenca.
Feria Libre Mercado in Cuenca
The Feria Libre Mercado is a fantastic place to buy your fresh produce as well. There are also cheese vendors, fresh fish, crabs, chickens and other meats. Generally if you decide to purchase produce from these markets it sometimes pay to go back to the same vendor so that you start to build a relationship with them. Also it is easier when you are trying to work out the prices of certain vegetables. If they know you and you know them chances are the prices will always stay the same.
Walking through some of the different areas you will be enticed by some of the most wonderful smells of fresh herbs and spices.
You can buy all sorts of wonderful rice, oats, quinoa, popcorn, barley and loads of other grains from vendors like this lady at the markets.
The markets are also a good place to pick up other items of interest such as baskets and flowers and even puppies, chickens and guinea pigs.
So whatever it is they you are looking for take your time to look around and enjoy the smells and tastes of Ecuador. Happy Shopping.
For more photos of the markets check out our Pinterest page.