Saturday market in Villa de Leyva

Saturday morning farmer’s market in Villa de Leyva today. And holy cannoli what a market.

A couple days ago we walked past the market space and it was a bare concrete platform with a few shattered crates and some rotting cabbage leaves. We walked up there this morning, expecting a couple rows of stalls…what we found was an ocean of vegetables, fruits, and what-the-heck-is-that?

Around the periphery were the means of transportation for the people who had come into town for market day, cars below in the gravel lot, and donkeys and mules above on the grassy hillside. I watched one rugged fellow in a dusty poncho get in a tussle with his mule, holding tight to the reins and sneaking his hand up and up and then lunging for the ear as the mule ducked its head. He was faster, gave the ear a visible twist, then lead his subdued beast off for the walk home.

I was overwhelmed by the people and produce, and still a little sleepy, so am disappointed with my pictures, but let me give you some idea of the variety. That I can recollect offhand, there were stacks of carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, green gourd squash, pumpkins, zucchini, fuzzy-spiky bell pepper things, and toothless-old-man bell pepper things.

There were green beans, eggplant, beets, and gorgeous piles of avocadoes. A dozen types of potatoes from familiar brown to tiny red fingerlings, garlic, corn on the cob and loose by the grain, as well as bunches of unknown herbs and leafy greens.

Peaches, yellow mangoes, green mangoes, apples, strawberries, grapes, bananas, plantains, watermelons, blackberries, blueberries, papaya, at least four different types of oranges, cantaloupe, pineapples, limes, pears, plums, persimmons (I think that‘s what chontaduro are?), guava, passion fruit, cactus fruit, star fruit, feijoa, guanabana, chirimoya, uchuva, mamones, tomates del arbol, lulo, gulupa, granadilla, curuba, and mangostino, whose name is a combination of mango and lobster, because the meat inside looks rather like the latter.

Good thing our hostel has a little fruit guide, otherwise I would have just said “uh…there were like…all the fruit I’ve ever heard of…then bunches more.”

We bought a bell pepper and two carrots for 25 cents, same for a bag of 8 beautiful homegrown tomatoes. For 50 cents each we got an avocado the size of a canteloupe and a big bag of fresh local blackberries. For just over a buck we bought a jar of handmade uchuva (the little yellow guys) and ginger jam. 

One edge of the market also had durable items, like socks, pottery, ponchos, shoes, belts, kitchen supplies, bras and baseball caps. Then the upper edge was divided between sausage and meat grillers to one side, and bubbling pots of breakfast stuffs over wood fires on the other.

We took a seat at one of the latter among locals who ranged from helpful and chatty to politely ignoring us. We ate “pericos” eggs (not sure what the English word is, they’re sorta baked(or)grilled in a little metal pot with tomatoes and onions), rice, and for me a sort of stew with fatty little chunks of beef (maybe pork?) and (Spanish pronunciation please) “muta,” which were kernels of the thick corn prepared somehow-or-other until they are like a plump starchy sort of popcorn. It was delicious. Then of course two cups of the incredible real-cocoa hot chocolate that makes me want to weep tears of joy in the marketplace.

The wood fires were going strong, and by the time we left we were covered in flecks of ash and smelled strongly of woodsmoke. Leaving, my hands held bags of fruit and vegetables, my belly was full of fresh-cooked breakfast, and my traveler spirit was smiling fit to blind the sun.