Saturday, August 7, 2010

Feria report, and finding your closest farmer's market in Santiago

Something that I love down to my crunchy granola toes about living in Latin America, or more specifically, Santiago is the ferias. Ferias are our weekend (or weekday) fruit and veggie stop, a place to yammer with your neighbors and thump the melons (but not too harshly, and not today, it's winter here) of your casero, or person who you always buy from.

You can tell that a feria is nearby by the (usually) ladies, wheeling a kind of luggage cart with a floppy plastic burlap bag (often red and blue striped) held up via grommets on a system of hooks it has. If you see them, and figure out where they're going or check out who you see coming towards you loaded down with freshies, you can triangulate and figure out where to go. The streets surrounding the feria will be full of off-spec vendors with sheets on the ground selling old clothes and electronics, and right before the feria starts, you'll see giant metal carts that the ferianos (people that sell at the markets) use to get their goods close to the feria.

But you came for the pictures and the rundown, didn't you?

I left the house with two empty reusable grocery bags, a little bit of cash, and a desire to fill up on delicious fresh veggies for the week.

I returned with this:


and a free vocabulary lesson for you:

habas (fava beans), 1,000
alcachofas (artichokes) 4 for 1,000
palta (avocado, 1/2 kilo), 700
brócoli (brocolli) 500
zapallo (squash) 300
rábanos (radishes) 300
cebollín (scallions) 300
mandarinas (tangerines (this word is also used for clementines), 1 kilo) 500
manzanas (apples, 1 kilo) 300
cilantro (cilantro, 1 bunch) 200
limones (lemons, 1 kilo) 150

The exchange rate has dropped recently, to 514 pesos to the dollar (apparently it's best when it hovers around 550 for export purposes, and this economy is run on exports), but that means at 5,250 pesos, I spent just over ten dollars. Oh, and it weighed 17.2 pounds, which I mention because this is not my regular feria and I thought it was much closer to my house than it is, and I would have been sad had I not ridden my bike. This one was on Martinez de Rosas, and the one I usually go to is on Sundays on Esperanza. And it's absolutely true that the character and culture of the feria, held just a day and about 15 blocks away is thoroughly different. Remind me to talk about that someday.

Wondering where your closest feria is? Well, they've got a website for that. The Ministerio de Agricultura (Ministry of Agriculture) put this website together a while ago, and while I often kvetch about the quality and accessibility of information here in Chile, I'm pretty impressed with this one. Select your comuna, corroborate its location on Googlemaps or Mapcity, and you're good to go. Be a good doobie, bring reusable bags, and then practice your quick draw Spanish explaining to the caseros that you don't want a plastic bag. Trust me, it's a challenge.


Lana said...

Thanks for posting this.. I was trying to explain to my mom what the prices are like down there. (I was saying things like "25 avocados are like a dollar" haha)
That is the one of the few things I am looking forward to moving down there for in a few days!

Isabel said...

beautiful picture! Man, I love going to La Vega with $10 and coming back with kilos and kilos of produce. One question: how are you going to prepare your artichokes? I'm so excited that they're big and beautiful finally! I just bought a bunch yesterday.

Eileen said...

Isabel, funny you should ask! I tried something new with them today, and think they turned out awesome, crispy in places and highly edible, and delish, no dipping sauce necessary.

I sliced them in half lenghtwise, rinsed them, olive-oiled a casserole dish (mine was ceramic, pyrex would work, not sure about other surfaces), squeezed in half a lemon, drizzled with olive oil, added a cup of water, covered with foil and baked for 40 min. Temp? turbo, not nuclear. This made 4 halves so I still have to think about how to make the other halves, but will probably do the same. I get annoyed at the steaming method, they get so wet and you have to add more water and the house gets damp.

mmmm, artichokes! And yes, the vega is awesome, but my local feria is much closer. I've already eaten avocado, squash, fava beans and artichokes today. Take that, winter!

Rebecca said...

Gorgeous photo. Must go eat vegetables now!

Margaret said...

Great post Eileen! And thanks for the link to the local ferias... Interesting to note that the more pituco el barrio, the fewer ferias it has!
Check it out- La Dehesa doesn't even appear on the list (though it may be part of Lo Barnechea), which has exactly TWO ferias... then check out La Florida, Puente Alto, and other more middle to working class neighborhoods and you'll find LOTS of ferias! So tell me... who's eating better, fresher, and riper in Santiago?

Audrey said...

I can't tell you how envious I am that you can get all of this in winter - winter! In the middle of summer in the Czech Republic the markets are full of leeks, cauliflower, radishes and carrots. So boring.

I so wish I could eat artichokes like that several times a week - that vegetable is one of my weaknesses. Have you tried the Espanola artichokes (curly leaves)? I saw them at Vega and the vendors explained that they are suppose to have more "meat" in the leaves, but less in the hearts. I didn't have a chance to buy them before we left and am curious about them.

Chica Mandita said...

if only i had a moneda for every time i said 'sin bolsa' at the feria.

Annje said...

I love produce. We spend a small fortune here in the US on fresh fruit and veggies. Peg's observation is interesting because in the US, farmer's markets are definitely for people with a large produce budget.

When I finally get there, I will let you test any form of artichoke cooking on me, and then we can go check out who lives in my old apt.

Katie said...

What a great haul! That produce looks gorgeous. How do the quality and prices stack up in comparison to a verdulería? Here in my corner of Argentina, we don't have farmer's markets (boo!), but the produce available at the verdulerías is usually quite nice and affordable.

Eileen said...

No farmer's markets? That's crazy! I have a local verdulería, and they have amazing eggs and goat cheese (hard, not like chevre). The veggies are a bit more expensive there, and also, she won't carry absolutely everything that is in season, just the staples that people want. The prices wouldn't prevent me from buying from her, but it is cheaper (and I always end up buying more, which yet and still seldom lasts me the week) to go to the feria, plus I really like the interaction and the peoplewatching.

Katie said...

Yes, Buenos Aires plays host to a few farmer's markets, but here in tiny Necochea, we don't have any. Fortunately, my favorite verdulería has a nice selection of produce. If I want people watching, I have to go to a café after I buy my fruits and veggies. ;)