Simple, Daily Delights Of Life In Medellín
Every Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., a bustling farmer’s market springs to life at Parque Presidenta, in the heart of El Poblado, Medellín, Colombia. This mercados campesinos is a feast for the senses. Tables are piled high with colorful vegetables and fruits, and the earthy aromas of coffee and baked goods greet you as you approach.
The market draws multigenerational families, dog owners and their four-legged friends, as well as runners and walkers attending Ciclovia, the weekly event that closes the southbound lanes of Avenida El Poblado to all motorized traffic every Sunday morning.
The market area is busy each Sunday, with children and dogs running and playing in the grassy areas all around. Kids laugh and squeal with delight, and dogs spin in circles and bark, as if to say, “Yes, free at last!” Dogs are allowed off leash here, but the pets, like the children, are very well behaved.
If you are here to shop, you need to jump right in and work your way up to the tables, carts, crates, bags, and platforms of food amongst the crowd of others bartering and buying. You can’t be shy. The vendors create quite a ruckus, hawking their items for sale and yelling prices back to questioning patrons. Shoppers search for specific vegetables and pick through boxes for the freshest fruits. Spanish is the predominate language, of course, but you do hear a few English words float by on the breezes. When people realize that you speak English, most try to use the few phrases they know, always with big smiles on their faces.
Colombians take their shopping seriously. However, if I catch someone’s eye and smile, they break into a grin and say, “Buenos dias, como esta?” The vendors are eager to help you choose their produce instead of the items at the next table, but they’ll cross-sell to their neighbors if they don’t have what you’re looking for. When we have struggled with our limited Spanish, often someone nearby steps up to help interpret. It can be a challenge, this weekly shopping trip, but we have been able to communicate well enough to buy what we want without too much trouble. And these weekly market visits are definitely helping to improve our Spanish.
In addition to the farmers and their fresh produce, the market hosts folks selling ready-to-eat food. Kiosks offer freshly prepared arepas, sausages, fruit juices, brewed coffee and tea, empanadas, and doughnuts. After a sweaty workout at Ciclovia, we like to reward ourselves with gourmet helado (ice cream). I usually choose the basil ice cream (it’s seriously good) or Nutella flavor, while my husband opts for the fresh fruit frozen yogurt of the day.
The wide variety of veggies on display each week is impressive and includes options I had never seen before moving to Colombia and had no idea how to prepare, but I’m learning. You can also buy local coffee (whole beans and pre-ground), homemade granola, sweet and savory breads, eggs, jams and jellies, sauces (including a fantastic basil pesto), as well as herbs, home remedies, and other natural products.
The best part about the mercado is that everything is organic, fresh, and reasonably priced. A week’s worth of fruit, vegetables, and eggs (not to mention all of the entertainment at the market) costs us around 30,000 pesos. That amounts right now to US$12.45. Believe me, it is money well spent.
The mercados campesinos is open every Sunday under the canvas awnings in Parque Presidenta, which is located just north of the Hotel Dann Carlton on Carrera 43B, Avenida el Poblado. Medellín also hosts other farmer’s markets, on different days, at different locations throughout the city.
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