Fresh organic produce in Lima is more accessible and affordable than one can imagine. At Bioferia in Miraflores organic doesn’t always mean expensive, and a lively, secure atmosphere of the market makes your visit a pleasant experience.
I love organic food. So when I found out that an organic market called Bioferia was organized every Saturday near Parque del Reducto in Miraflores, I was overjoyed. I remember going there for the first time, with an empty backpack and a feeling of adventure. Now, after several months, I’m a regular customer acquainted with practically every veggie on the stands.
A row of about 30 tents offers a variety of products: vegetables, fruits, and herbs; honey and bee pollen, chocolate, coffee, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, milk, butter, cheese, eggs and chicken. Non-edible goods are represented by skincare products, shampoos, aromatic oils, cotton clothes and wooden toys – all made with natural components.
“Are these potatoes organic?” asks an occasional first-time visitor.
“Everything is organic,” explains the vendor patiently. And it is. Organic and certified. You can see special signs on many packages: cocoa, chocolate, maca, rice, quinoa, olives. Some products have several certificates confirming their quality.
The food comes from farms in all regions of Peru: olives and olive oil from Arequipa, rice and quinoa from Piura, delicious golden berry and bananas from the jungle. Each vegetable or fruit can tell a long story of how it got from organic soil to the customer’s shopping bag.
It is an active place. In front of many tents customers are grouped waiting for their turn, while the busy vendors weigh, pack, and calculate. People come with shopping bags on wheels, backpacks, baskets – anything that can store large quantities of food to last for a week. The sellers offer plastic or paper bags to pack the purchases, but some ecology-conscious buyers bring reusable bags.
Several police officers look after the market’s security every Saturday. The atmosphere of leisurely busyness enchants the place. Some visitors stroll back and force the street in front of the market, looking, chatting with friends, eating ready-made food and drinking coffee. Many people come with children, have a healthy meal, and then go for a walk in the park.
Right before the row of tents nuns from a nearby convent sell their tamales and humitas out of huge plastic containers. These Peruvian snacks made of corn can be salty and sweet, with addition of cheese or chicken. They are wrapped in corn leaves, and you can ask the nun who is selling them to unwrap one for you to eat it on the spot.
Everyone is welcome to taste the products. Among pieces of bread with olive oil, huge black olives, cottage cheese, yogurt, butter, various dips, chocolate and energy bars you can get yourself quite a breakfast.
At the market you can have a portion of fresh-made green extract from delicate wheat sprouts. A small cup that resembles a thimblecosts three sols – an injection of vitamins into your system. Many prefer other energizers: coffee with milk or lucuma ice-cream.
The majority of the customers are foreigners. I always hear English, German, French talk here and there. Some vendors speak English, but usually the requests are made in Spanish with a variety of accents.
The most popular word on the market is probably casera (or casero for a man.) This is how both regular customers and sellers call each other. I feel good when I hear a warm caserita from a vendor I know, and return the greeting with pleasure. Caseros have their privileges: once a woman I always buy strawberry from gave me half a kilo of ripe berries for free.
This market is for a thoughtful buyer who knows how to choose. If you pay attention to the details, you will get yourself a good bargain.Many vegetables are more expensive than in the supermarket (for example, tomatoes at 6 sols per kilo), but some of them are cheaper, and that’s the advantage.
Apples, strawberry, olive oil, reddish, cucumbers, corn, a great variety of potherbs, and other vegetables depending on the season cost less than in supermarkets and shops, and their quality is infinitely better. It is not a custom to bargain on the market: the sellers have fixed prices established by the companies they work for.
However, small quantities of food can be sold cheaper when it’s all that’s left or when the market is about to close.
Milk from the brand “Happy Cows” costs 6 sols per liter, which is quite expensive, but it’s worth it. It’s real milk that has nothing to do with packaged white substance with abnormally long shelf life in the supermarkets. And I have never tasted butter as purely delicious as made from that milk. The ingredients are simple: cream, salt. No preservatives or other E-nnoying chemicals that abound on the packages of conventional food.
What is obviously overpriced on the market is the ready-made food. There is a big variety: from cakes and salads to vegan wraps with a portion of avocado paste on top that looks like green gelato. But all these salty and sweet delicacies are expensive: 10-15 soles per item. A piece of strawberry cake might cost 12 soles, while a kilo of fresh strawberry at the same market costs 5. A loaf of whole grain bread is priced at not less than 10 soles. A person who wants a solid vegetarian lunch should be prepared to spend 30-50 soles.
Bioferia is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday, but the best time to come is from 9 to 11 a.m. After 12 p.m. eggs and chicken will probably be sold out, and you may not find your favorite cucumbers, strawberry, or apples.
The feast of organic veggies and fruits is active all the year, but summer gives it a new dimension.A fresh harvest with a larger variety of products arrives to the stands. Sunlight and warmth of the air adds cheerfulness to the market life.
Going to Bioferia every Saturday has become a good tradition to me:it is a shopping experience, a morning exercise, and a contact with nature all in one. In short, an adventure worth living.
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