I try to go to the Vega market once a week, sometimes I’m lazy or too busy, then I go once in two weeks. I have a little tradition now: a market trip is not complete without a stop at the juice stand. Here you choose fresh fruits with or without milk that is then blended into juice or a smoothie. You get half a litre of juice, which is more than the plastic cup can take, so you have to stand at the stall and quickly drink half of your juice, so that they can pour the rest of your juice in your cup. $2USD for half a litre of juice! My favourite is the pear and pineapple. Yum! In South Africa we have avocado pears. They are all the same size and same type. Even in Durban, with a tropical climate where Avo’s grow all year round, I have never differentiated between different types. Here in Chile, there are more than five types of avos (palta in Spanish). I always choose the hass paltas, because it’s only $1.4USD for a kilo of these avocados!
I am brave enough now to try out the sauces that are sold at the market. you choose a sauce and then get a small plastic bag filled with cilantro or some kind of chilli sauce. It’s delicious in pasta dishes. I make sure to ask ‘Es muy picante?’ (my version of ‘is it very hot?’) just to make sure I don’t burn my mouth too badly.
A fruit unique to Chile is the cherimoya. You need to feel if the fruit is ready, like and avocado pear. You slice it open and eat the white centre with a spoon. The taste is something between a guava and a litchi (very sweet) and the texture is soft, like a papaya. You don’t eat the fuzzy green skin.
At the market you buy fruit and vegetables by the kilo. Friendly grocers allow you to buy only one or two fruit at a time, but small purchases are generally frowned upon. Which is why Dirk and I have a lifetime supply of dried Origanum in our cupboard! The spices are sold by quarters or half kilos; a quarter kilo of Origanum will last you for a long long time.
What I love about the market is that you are concious of which fruit are in season. Strawberries are very cheap at the moment, because the season is almost over and cherries are suddenly everywhere in the market! I bought half a kilo of cherries for $1USD today! Grapes and baby marrows are just coming into season. I wanted to buy Blueberries too, but the boy helping his sister man the stand was sticking his hands all over the berries, so I decided not to buy the blueberries. It was this same boy who weighed my cherries, and when one cherry was sticking out of the bag, he promptly used his mouth to insert the cherry back into the bag. I did not know how to respond! Needless to say, I rinsed those cherries twice before eating them.