Last Updated: Feb 21, 2012
The farmers’ market, known in Costa Rica as the feria, is a celebrated Costa Rican tradition. Each week farmers sell their freshest produce, offering seasonal varieties and year-round favorites. It’s a social event characterized by friendly crowds, playful banter, and farmers boisterously offering their fresh produce. Neighbors stop to chat and shoppers become sociable with familiar faces. Foreigners are welcomed, and amiable vendors frequently offer nibbles of unfamiliar goods or cooking tips.
Almost every town hosts a weekly farmers’ market. In order to beat the crowds, many choose to visit just after sunrise. It’s possible to find almost any seasonal fruit or vegetable, and often for significantly less than in the supermarkets. Familiar choices include potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, watermelon, bananas, and mangoes, while more exotic varieties include rambutan, breadfruit, figs, sour star fruit, peach palm fruit, and dragon fruit. Since prices are low – usually no more than $1.75 per lb. for the most expensive produce – experimentation is encouraged and can be lots of fun.
Vendors also hawk other edibles, including poultry, meat, fish, cheese, sour cream, and eggs. Medicinal herbs, teas, and flowers are sold in season. At larger markets, artisan works like pottery and jewelry are also on display. To keep shoppers fueled up, there is often prepared food and drink available, including favorites like coconut water, empanadas, and warm corn pancakes known as chorreadas.
At most markets, prices are clearly marked in front of each item. If not, ask the vendor for the price – “Cuanto cuesta esto?” Check around at several stalls to see which has the lowest prices. After deciding, ask for a plastic bag or bowl and select the desired amount of produce. The farmer weighs the goods, usually adding or subtracting to the nearest half pound, and names the total. Haggling may be acceptable at some markets, but in general, farmers set very fair prices and remember, this is their livelihood. Regular customers usually buy from the same farmers every week and establish a trusting relationship over the years. Vendors often reserve their best produce for their loyal shoppers; it’s just one of the perks of being a regular.
The farmers’ market is an important aspect of the local economy, providing income for farmers and inexpensive and healthy produce for their customers. It is a nourishing tradition, one of exotic tastes and pleasant mornings, and the best place to find Costa Rica’s most delicious fruits and vegetables.