Photo Credit: Diane Main
Contrary to what you may have been told, not all fruits and vegetables in Ecuador are organic. In fact, most are not — and the same can be said for meat, seafood, poultry and dairy. I have personally witnessed the weekly spraying of pesticides in large fields outside of Cuenca. As with the United States and Canada, all organic produce must be certified and labeled as organic here in Ecuador.
So if eating organic foods is important to you, you’ll need to do some shopping outside of the national chain grocery stores. Luckily, the availability of organic produce is growing, due to demand by local Ecuadorians as well as the expat population.
The largest certified organic market, called Biocentro Agroecológico, is located off Avenida Loja and just south of the intersection with Don Bosco, near the El Tiempo printing presses. It is on Rodrigo de Traina (please note that this street is not labeled on Google Maps) and the closest cross-street is called La Pinta. You can go by taxi and tell the driver “el mercado orgánico Biocentro Agroecológico, cerca de El Tiempo.” Most taxi drivers know where the market is.
You can also take a bus. Both the #5 and the #12 stop in front of the Diario/El Tiempo, which is the name of the bus stop. From there, it’s a short walk (two blocks) to the market. Watch the video below for directions.
The market is open Saturdays, with at least 60 vendors, and Wednesdays, with significantly fewer. The market opens at 6 a.m., and is completely sold out by about 10 a.m. If you want organic meats, poultry, seafood, and/or dairy, you need to arrive early (by 6:30). You will be rewarded with a plethora of mostly vegetables and fruits, as well as eggs (bring your own carton), and various other organic products including breads and superfoods (bee pollen, herbs). Prices are not “whole paycheck” prices; most items cost 50 cents or less. On our trip, which you can watch in the accompanying video, we also bought organic honey and honey products. There’s also a “restaurant” where I like to buy hot pancakes, either salty or sweet, as well as chicken and cuy plates. There’s a bathroom located behind the restaurant area. Bring tissue.
If the thought of waking before the sun rises is an impossibility, there is another certified organic market, part of the same Biocentro Agroecológico group, that sells products on Sunday mornings. The market is located on 3 de Noviembre, 4-78, at the intersection with Todos Santos (formerly Republica del Sur). This is a small group of women who sell what they grow. Again, you’ll find mostly vegetables, but also eggs and other products.
Please support these hard-working local growers. With your support, this industry will keep growing.