Saturday, April 14, 2007

Shop Til You Drop

One of the great pleasures in Ecuador is the shopping at local markets. I don't mean only the wonderful craft markets found in many centres throughout Ecuador, but also the amazing food markets.

Every Sunday, the local growers around Cotacachi bring their just-picked produce to the large covered market and its adjacent outdoor market square. The market overflows with fresh fruits - pineapples, tree tomatoes, bananas, oranges, plums, strawberries, blackberries, and many more local fruits. It also overflows with people - children, locals, couples, teens, and tourists!

On the opposite side are booths packed with baskets of all varieties of potatoes, long carrots, bunches of huge scallions, immense cabbages, fresh greens and more. In one corner, the scent of exotic spices such as star anise, cinnamon bark, peppercorns, achiote and nutmeg fill the air. You can find local cheeses, fresh breads, hot corn, and freshly shelled beans for immediate eating.In the outdoor courtyard, all those who are not permanent vendors have set up their wares. In these outdoor stalls you can buy the lovely warm sweaters of local knitters, colourful hammocks, woven tapestries, beautifully embroidered clothing and table linens, and handmade baskets. Off in a corner, a flutist and guitarist are playing the local music.

What a great way to spend a Sunday, just wandering through, buying fresh food for dinner, and enjoying the kaleidescope of colours, the cacophony of sounds, and the friendly, cheerful vendors and customers.