Last week I was walking home when I saw a group of Ticos right off the road. My interest piqued and I decided to see what all the commotion was about. To my surprise, what I thought was a small space opened into a long hallway. A maze of entrances and exits expanding a couple city blocks make up what the locals call the Mercado Central or Heredia’s Central Market.
Hesitantly, I entered the market with eyes the size of saucers. The main hallway was lines with every fruit and vegetable you could imagine, including those that I had never seen before! Each vendor kindly greeted me and offered their assistance. I began aksing questions about the new fruits and vegtables that I saw. There was this spikey, round and red thing that I found out to be called a mamón chino, known as a lychee in Asia.
It is a fruit that you break open and suck on the fibrous seed until you get down to the pit. I daringly tried on and although the slimy seed intimidated me, I thought it tased pretty good. It has a sour with a subtle sweet flavor.
I saw starfruit, or carambola, a large green and spikey fruit called guanábana, a gourd that resembled an old toothless man. Then there was chayote, papaya, pineapple and yuca. Costa Ricans use many of these fruits to make natural fruit juices.
I later ventured into the depths of the market and discovered people selling meats at carnicerías or butcher shops. I didn’t recognize some of the meat, but they did have you usual ground beef, chicken, pork and fish. The also had your not-so-usual pig feet, entire pig legs, cow tongues, and a whole bunch of mystery meats.
There were also stores selling arts and crafts and restaurants with typical Costa Rican dishes or casados. I could have spent hours in Heredia’s Central Market. There were so many different things to see and interesting things to try. This weekend I have plans to go back to the Central Market and practice my Spanish. Maybe then I’ll be brave enough to try the mystery meat, or maybe not!