Farmers' Market Share Visits a Mercado in Peru

I spent the first half of January -- the crappy half, as you all know -- south of the equator, in Peru. About half of our stay was in the smallish city of Cusco, which sits about 3,000 meters above sea level. A significant portion of the city still uses streets first constructed by the Incas in the 1400s, and artisans travel from surrounding towns to sell their wares on the streets.

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Alissa Nelson
There are a few supermarkets in the city, but there is a bustling energy around the central market, or mercado central. Since there isn't enough of an infrastructure for large-scale shipments from larger coastal cities like Lima, much of the food for sale in the city is grown locally, transported out of the surrounding mountains by donkey and then transferred to cars and trucks.

Before before I visited the mercado central, I hired an excellent guide to take my husband and me on a trek through the mountains to clomp around a set of ruins that could only be reached by hiking two days. Five days without a shower? Sign me up.

Midway through day two of five, I was questioning my decision of choosing the trek that made people raise their eyebrows and speculate on how I must be in particularly great shape. Yes, the views were spectacular, and the rain was holding off wonderfully. But I felt like I was about to fall off the side of the mountain, my husband had some sort of intestinal bug that somehow just caused horrible burping, and we were dodging piles of horse and donkey shit for hours on the 45-degree climbs.

Then from her bag the guide pulled a cherimoya, which she'd picked off a tree at our campsite. It was a green, scaly-looking, oblong fruit, which looked more like an armadillo than an apple. She pried it open with her hands and offered us half. It smelled like butter, and it tasted almost like apple pie.

According to Wikipedia, Mark Twain called it "the most delicious fruit known to men." And after a day of brutal hiking, it was the one thing that could get me up to finish the last few kilometers as the rain started to fall. If you want to try, cherimoya.com appears to be your source for animated cherimoya gifs and fruit, shipped from California.

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