Back in January, my daughter and I visited my brother’s home in Costa Rica for a family reunion. No better place for a family reunion in January! They live in the mountains near Cartago, and have a 15 acre coffee farm. They moved down there 10 years ago after retiring from teaching school. They have banana trees that shade the coffee, so there are fresh bananas all the time for the picking. The workers hang a stalk near their porch and you can just get one whenever you want. The porch is where most of the living is done. Where they are, the temperatures run in the mid to high 50’s at night and up to 80 degrees during the day. It is like perpetual spring. It was coffee picking time while we were there and so we got to see how that was done and how it is processed at the co-op that buys their coffee. Local food is mostly the way of life there. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart has infiltrated and is bringing more industrial food into the area, but the old ways are dying hard, such as the local farmer’s market.
On Saturdays in Cartago you can go to the local farmers market and apparently, everyone does. I went with Becky, my sister-in-law, who goes every week and takes several folks from her housekeeper’s family who do not have a vehicle. (Many people there ride bicycles and walk what would seem to us enormous distances up and down mountains, every day.) I would estimate that there are at least a hundred booths in each of two streets on either side of a park. the booths run down each side of the street with a double row in the middle.
There is an enormous variety of food available. The climate varies as you go up and down in the mountains, so that vegetables with warmer needs grow in the valleys and cooler season vegetables grow up in the mountains. All kinds of cruciferous vegetables were there, cauliflower, cabbage, greens, chard and lettuce, as well as tropical fruits and vegetables. I saw green beans, tomatoes, celery, pineapples, gourds, and berries of all kinds. There were roots and stems of plants I did not recognize, and we could not understand the description of how they were cooked. There were melons, watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydews and some I did not recognize, but they offered tastes and they were delicious. Many fruits can also be purchased along the side of the road. There were also fresh eggs from non-industrial chickens. Those are just as tasty as the ones we get from our chickens.
We took the tasty creation and found a place to sit and enjoy it and watch the busy market. Becky says that by late afternoon, almost everything is sold. People from the city of 156,000 and the surrounding area buy up all the food available. Cartago, which was founded in 1563, is located at the base of Vocano Irazu, which over many millenia has covered the area with volcanic ash which contributes to the high fertility of the agricultural area surrounding the city. The main agricultural products of the surrounding region are potatoes, milk, onions, coffee and orchids, but as you can see lots of other foods grow in the area.
I enjoyed my time there, but it started me on a fruit binge that I have just now gotten back under control. The tropical fruits there were so good and when I got back here, I found that the local Kroger had Costa Rican bananas and pineapples. They were not quite as good as the ones down there, but they were pretty good. And then those ruby red grapefruits had come in from Texas. Ok, I know none of that is local, but it is traditional, at least in my family from way back, to purchase tropical fruits in the winter. You get those lovely oranges and such from Florida, and that is not so far from me. But Texas has the best grapefruit, I think. Anyway, I have been eating a lot of fruit and it has slowed down my weight loss somewhat, although, I have gotten no colds or anything like that, even though people around me at work have been dropping like flies. I guess it could be worse. I did allow myself some absolutely wonderful coconut flan at a restaurant we went to. I haven’t made any flan since I came back. A fruit binge is much better than a flan binge.