I need to pay better attention. Really. I’ve been here for over a year now and I should know these things. Check that. I did know about them, but I was leery. An organic market? Hmmm. Was this just to cater to the granola cruncher crowd? High priced produce, but no regulations on its authenticity? I had concerns. I was skeptical. I was about to be educated.
Begin with the Feria del Gustico Costarricense, and go from there. You have no idea how excited I was at seeing all those amazing vendors growing, producing and selling all these incredible products. I was seriously overwhelmed and chirped at Rafa incessantly about what I wanted to write. He, being my muse, gave me the best way to do it; by interviewing each one and where better than to start than at Feria Verde, the organic market I was so suspicious of to begin with.
Feria Verde de Aranjuez began about four years ago and formed the group la Asociación Amantes de lo Orgánico -AAMOR, “to create spaces that house various proposals for sustainable living such as organic farming, fair trade, sports and artistic activities, the rescue of traditions, organic food, and various alternative and holistic practices among others”. The market is only on Saturdays and runs from 7am to 1pm. Sometimes our Saturdays can be rather questionable, or should I say dictated by the activities from the night before, but we did manage to rise at a decent hour and make our way to the market. Set around the edge of a soccer field at the bottom of a little creek valley, past the roller derby girls (yes, you read correctly) is a portable village of bamboo tents and the most delicious array of goodies any self-respecting food snob locavore could desire. And the first thing I see:
Yes. It was a good day. Priced at 500 colones (or about a buck a pint), I was more than happy to sample a few while I drilled the farmer on his practices. I refused to buy strawberries in the other markets only because I know how many chemicals are required to get them so big and luscious. Granted, I always felt there is no way to know for sure here, but according to the Feria Verde charter “Producers and industrial processors and business must ensure that your product really is organic either have certified their production units by internationally recognized certification or because it has the support of a Participatory Guarantee System.” Reading that really put my mind at ease and made me realize how passionate people are about bringing safe sustainable food to everyday Costa Ricans. Strawberries are heavy feeders, meaning they like lots of fertilizers, and are one of the “Dirty Dozen” fresh foods that contain pesticides. It’s a good list to keep in mind if you are concerned about what you eat.
The second thing that made me all squirmmy with happiness was this (also on the “Dirty Dozen” list):
This was the first time I have seen this kale in the market place. Tuscan kale (Brassica oleracea) (also known as lacinato kale, dinosaur kale and palm tree kale) is my all time favorite to cook with and is superb in soups. Even diehard veggie haters have gobbled down my kale in soups and sautés . Tuscan kale, like all kales, is extraordinarily nutritious: a cup provides more than 100 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamins K and A, and 88 percent of the DV for vitamin C. It is also a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention. Another market place oddity I saw was fennel bulb. I don’t normally use fennel but it is an integral part of the recipe I have for my homemade bouillon (recipe in the “Rice, Rice, Baby” blog). The only place I found it was Auto Mercado and I froze it for later use. It’s good to know I have a fresh fix now.
A few of the products I found missing from the expo but discovered at Feria Verde which are on my future shopping list include: fresh pasta (my next weekend purchase), coconut oil, fresh spices like vanilla, cinnamon, and pepper, some outstanding chocolate, and fresh made Kombucha. Now, I never like kombucha. Some people swear by its detoxifying properties and medicinal healing claims, but I am skeptical. The stuff I had back stateside was rather vile, but the fresh brewed kombucha here was, dare I say, quite tasty. So, if like me, you had a bad experience with this stuff, snag a glass. You won’t be disappointed.
This little blog certainly does not cover all that is Feria Verde. There seems to be a lot going on from book swaps to yoga to events for kids, so I recommend checking out their site to see what is coming up. Also, I highly suggest going on an empty stomach. I didn’t even get to mention all the vendors selling prepared food and drinks. Needless to say, there was a lot for me to consume and I am just going to have to come back for more.