The Lucas Galvez market in Merida Centro is a feast for all your senses. Brilliantly coloured flower vendors, vegetables you have never seen before. Handmade clothing and hammocks, blankets and standard tourist trinkets abound. There are vendors inside and outside this huge old building. It may look dirty and rundown and the floors can be treacherous, but notice there is not a single fly near any of the meat and fish. The white clothes are immaculate and the bargains to be had are outstanding.
We would recommend first tackling the market with a tour guide, unless your Spanish is very good. We found ours by asking on Yucatan Beach Friends Facebook page. A young lady called Amanda volunteered to be our guide, we each paid around $100 pesos (less than $10 Canadian) for a 4 hour tour. Amanda arranges lots of different tours from cenotes to food tours for ex pats, she speaks French, Spanish and English and is a wonderful guide.
The market is absolutely huge and has specific areas for flower vendors, fruit and veg, meat and fish and a separate building for the handicrafts. It is open every day of the week from around 8am until 4 or 5 including Sundays. The artisan market does not tend to be fully open on Sundays though.
We started in the area of fruits and vegetables, Amanda pointed out vegetables and fruits we had never seen and then explained to us how Mexicans enjoyed them. We were astounded at the prices because they were incredibly cheap compared to North American pricing. What you should be aware of is that these products are not for long term storage they must be eaten relatively quickly as they will go off very soon.
We noticed that most Mexicans purchase herbs and spices and recado mixes that are the specialities of certain vendors. Fresh meat is purchased daily and there are rarely any tomatoes available other than the Roma variety. Certain vegetables we are accustomed to in North America are also not available. Things that are difficult to find include; asparagus, good fresh broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, brussel sprouts. Potatoes are also not great in Mexico which is why you will see a lot of frozen french fries.
Don’t forget to check out the street food stalls when you are at the Market as well. From Marquesitas to Tepache there is a treat on every corner. Check out this piece to learn more about street food in the Yucatan along with this one to learn about Refrescos.
Some of the indigenous items like the sour oranges pictured above are the mainstays of the Yucatecan diet. Sour orange is used as a preservative and a marinade and is particularly famous in the Conchinita Pibil of the Yucatan.
Espelons are a seasonal fresh bean that is used in specialty dishes such as the Tamale La Reina. These are picked fresh, removed from the pod and sold by the kilo and used in the tamale dough. You can find more information on making Tamales here and a great piece on the beans by Margret Heffner is here. At the Lucas Galvez market you will only see espelons available around Easter time.
Kibis are originally Lebanese but due to the large Lebanese population in Merida and the Yucatan over the years these have become a great fast food option on many stalls in the market. The crepe is also very popular particularly when filled with Nutella and cheese. You can read more about Yucatecan street food here.
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