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The Xochimilco Market

February 19, 2009

On February 19, 2009, Ruth, Linda and I went to Xochimilco, the town south of Mexico City famous for its canals and floating gardens. Unfortunately these are not what they used to be and so we skipped them. We were there to see the Mercado Xóchitl. As we arrived in the town center, we heard the loud booms of rockets going off, which Ruth said announce one of the many neighborhood festivals and parades.


On the street between the main square and the 16th century church of San Bernardino de Seina some young men were setting off their rockets. Eventually the parade came around the corner with a few floats, some small bands and many people, particularly children, in costume. The pinkish buildings you can see over the crowd are the inside part of the market. The main square is to the right.

When the parade had passed, we walked on to the market, which is enormous. We started along the stands set up outside, then went inside the two large buildings, shopped along the stands outside on the far side and came back through the buildings. I’ll show my photos generally in the order I took them rather than separating by subject as I usually do. This market was peculiar in that there were no separate fish or flower sections; they were mixed in. Compared to the market in Zihuatanejo, which I reported on last week, this market was several times as big. It was just as crowded, but people were more calm. One really felt a highland Indian ambience as opposed to the coastal buzz. Much more care had been taken to make lovely displays of the products. Some of the vendors used their spare time to prepare things: shelling peas, scraping corn or cactus leaves, making carrot sticks etc. There were also some very upscale stands, such as the mole vendor you will see. There were also many more places to sit down and eat, although we were too early for the midday meal, which is generally the big meal of the day here.

Squash blossoms are used in many ways in Mexican cuisine.

Linda and Ruth are buying huitlacoche, sometimes known as Mexican truffles. They are kernels of corn which have developed a black mold. We had been quite disappointed a week before that the Lasagna de Huitlacoche had not been available at Izote, which is surprising as it is one of their signature dishes and obviously the product was available. We cooked twice with it at Judith’s, once with rice and once with scrambled eggs. It was interesting, but didn’t share anything with truffles except the color. But I would have liked to have it prepared by a good Mexican chef.

Peas and carrots are all ready for cooking, or you can prepare them yourself.

Nuts and raisins are pressed into healthy candy bars.
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Apricots are in season.

Ruth and Linda progress down the alley of vendors between the market and the square.

Linda imagines that she is Diego Rivera.

Ruth said that this elegant lady is always here preparing cactus leaves.

This lady’s cactus leaves are already bundled up for sale.
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Dried chiles of many types are everywhere in the market.

These ladies prepare their own varieties of tortillas at home and bring them to the market for sale.

Ruth is explaining to Linda why she buys the kind of tortillas she does.

There are many butcher and fish stands.

Cow hooves are an important ingredient to thicken big pots of simmering soups.

Oxtails

Kidneys and other innards.

His distant ancestors built enormous pyramids at Teotihuacan and he is now building the world’s largest strawberry pyramid.

One would miss a lot if one didn’t keep looking up.


These are fresh water sponges from nearby lakes. The lady on the right has prepared yucca hearts and a vegetable which is a cross between a potato and a radish.

The bakery products are fresh and varied. Kids find them much more interesting than veggies.

Fresh fruit flavored yoghurts.

Blue corn is probably the original variety.

Honey was the only sweetener known here before the Spanish brought sugar cane.

This is a drink sold in paper cups. It is made of corn kernels, chiles and herbs. I had half a cup; it was good, but I could taste it for the next half hour.

More Diego Rivera.

Pinapples are sold peeled or unpeeled.
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Ruth is explaining some exotic fruit to Linda.

The food counters were busy in the morning. The sit down at a table section had not opened yet. Fresh tortillas seem to be the base of everything.

The mariachi guitarist was entertaining the early crowd in front of the drinks counter.

Ruth said that this is the best vendor of prepared moles, either in paste or powder form. We bought powders of a black mole with chocolate and pine nuts, which is best with pork, and of a green one, based on pumpkin seeds, with cilantro, which is best with chicken. To use the mole powders one can cook onions and garlic in butter, then add the powder for light cooking and add pork or chicken stock. The sauce is then simmered until thick. (In case you hadn’t made the connection before: an avocado based mole is a guacamole.)

There are herb preparations for almost any ailment.


There are dried beans from many regions of Mexico.

Dried hibiscus flowers are an excellent garnish for many dishes.

There are herbal teas.

The jicama is beautifully arranged.

Potatoes come in a variety of colors.

Corn is frequently scraped off the cob for sale.

This is a simmering mutton stew which is quite popular.

The sit down lunch crowd has not yet arrived.

Some fresh tortillas are prepared by machines.

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A variety of cooked innards.
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That is a Mexican haggis on top of the cooked lamb display.

Many salads.

We enjoyed an excellent morning at the market and came away with more than we had planned to buy. Ruth’s knowledge was essential; she could explain anything that was for sale. After we had left the food section, she steered Linda to a stand selling hand emboidered dresses which Linda could not resist. We went on to the nearby Dolores Olmedo Museum, which was quite interesting and were ready for a good lunch at the Café Azul y Oro.

Ruth’s website is

www.mexicosoulandessence.com

Her blog is

http://ruthincondechi.blogspot.com

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