Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Since coming to San Miguel de Allende, a small city in the central highlands of Mexico, I’ve been on a quest for local, organic foods that are the pride of the purveyors. And, it seems that I am not alone in my quest.
Buying food in Mexico has typically meant going to the Mercado. To get the freshest and the most locally grown food, you went to the Tianguis, which is a once-a-week market. At that market, you can buy fruits and vegetables from the people who grow the foods. They are typically local farmers, within a day or half a day drive.
Mexico is a country in transition. Although poverty is still prevalent, a middle class is emerging and steadily growing. And this middle class wants organic foods that taste good and are good for them. They are accustomed to buying locally grown food and most of the fruits and vegetables sold in the markets are local. Most produce is seasonal and grown not more than 25 miles away. The broccoli in this area is outstanding, as is the lettuce. I buy avocados that are ready for use today or tomorrow. And they are creamy and tasty.
Organic farming, however, is not unknown in Mexico. Eighty-five percent of Mexico’s organic produce is exported, five percent is sold as organic and the remaining ten percent is sold as conventional produce. Mexico has the highest number of organic farms worldwide.
Bioagrimex (La Carpa, Fabrica Aurora, Calzada de la Aurora), a cooperative formed by organic producers in the Bajío/San Miguel region, is a new organization formed to assist organic growers through marketing programs, and to help growers to follow the ethical standards of the organic movement.
Bioagrimex is located in La Carpa (the tent) at the Aurora Design Center. This organic market is held every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. They sell produce, organic beef, chicken, pork, and sometimes, rabbit, as well as organic wines, soy milk, bread and cheeses. La Carpa’s gourmet treats are a variety of Italian charcuterie, including prosciutto and pancetta.
The market is still small, but every week new purveyors arrive and more people come to look and buy. It is not the Union Square Greenmarket, but it is growing.
In addition to Bioagrimex, there are a number of organic vegetable stores that have a good variety of local, organic produce.
Over the past three years Bee Natural (Calle Nueva 7, 154-8629) has become a leader in the organic food movement in San Miguel by supporting local, organic growers. The store provides a wide range of organic products from vegetables to cheeses, yogurt to dog food. They also have organic, local honey, pollen and cough remedies. Bee Natural also boasts a chef, Alicia Rivero, who provides delicious take-out foods made with products that are chemical free, organic, and when possible, local.
I buy most of my vegetables at BBQ Bob’s (Salida a Celaya #6). The produce sold there is both local—it is grown less than 20 miles away—and organic. The store also sells organic chicken and eggs, as well as tasty sausages that are made in their on-site kitchen.
Although Mexico has a number of local cheeses, the variety and quality are often lacking. For really quality cheese, most people buy the imported cheeses, which are quite expensive. This is changing now with small, artisan cheese makers. A new store in San Miguel now sells locally made goat cheese in several styles. The store, Luna de Queso (Salida A Celaya #41), is basically an outlet for a farm in nearby Querétaro, Mexico. The store sells not only a huge variety of goat cheese, but also locally, factory-made, mozzarella and the more widely known Mexican cheeses from Oaxaca, as well as imported blue cheeses and cheddar.
In the last two years, buying organic, local foods here in Mexico has become easier. As the sustainable food movement and farmer’s markets have grown in the United States, the same movements have been growing here in Mexico. It is no surprise since so much of the produce is grown in Mexico.
Arlene Krasner is a former high-tech engineering manager. She recently lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.