Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

Going Shopping! Comparing prices, U.S. versus El Salvador   Leave a comment

Here is another cost of living article, noting differences between El Salvador and the U.S.

I’m taking you with me on a “Tour du Store”.  We’ll walk through the aisles together, and I’ll point out things I bought, and saw, and tell you how it compares to  products and pricing in El Salvador.

Our shopping trip takes place in the Market Basket, a fantastic grocery chain in New England, famous for its low prices and international product selection.  They beat the pants off the stupid Publix my mom goes to in Florida, that store would never have my business.  Pics are from late September, 2012.

Mmmm BUTTER. In E.S. it’s $1 (a dollar) a stick,
usually sold a stick at a time.   67 cents a stick in
U.S.   Are Dairy Subsidies helping this?
EGGS.  Same or More $ in El Salvador.
Package of 15 about 2 bucks or 2.25+ in E.S.
Farm fresh at mom-in-laws 8 for a dollar – exact price
as seen here.

There’s a “weird” egg thing I finally figured out in El Salvador.  Eggs are sold in stores at room temperature, which I always thought was, especially when the air temp is 80 or higher in most places there.   Here’s WHY:   if you refrigerate eggs and then stop refrigerating them, they spoil fast.  People in El Salvador usually have smaller fridges or no fridge at all, so stores sell them at room temp to accommodate this.   Eggs will also spoil fast if you get them wet, according to my husband.

Here are the CHICKENS that laid those eggs.   Based on this grocery trip, chicken in El Salvador costs MORE.   At Super Selectos grocery stores in El Salvador, as of August of 2012 and long before that, the cheapest price for “leg quarters” I could find was 1.49 or so.   The picture above shows that here in the U.S. I find them for 20 cents cheaper.    Now, you CAN find cheaper chicken at the MARKET in El Salvador – look for the “Pollo Indio” there, for probably 1.25 or 1.30, so that is one option.  MARKET food in El Salvador is lots cheaper than the grocery store, so make use of it when you can.

I mentioned the Chicken pricing difference to my husband, and he reminded me that in El Salvador the price of chicken feed is probably more, comparatively.    Corn is a big component of chicken feed, and most people know about the corn subsidies we have in the U.S.   Also, farmers in general get a lot of assistance from the government in the U.S.

Personally, I think mega farm factories need not have so many subsidies, but that’s a discussion that belongs on someone elses blog, so I’ll stop there. Ya’ll can watch Food, Inc. and Forks over Knives on your own time.

YOGURT – same price in El Salvador.   It’s not quite mainstream in El Salvador, and I’m not sure it’s produced there if at all, so the Yoplait yogurt pictured here has an exact same price and quality corollary in E.S. called ‘Yes’.   Say yes to yes if you like yogurt, it’s good.    TUNA – wow, what a great price the U.S. has – on sale for 80 cents a can.  I NEVER found Tuna for less than $1 a can, and almost always 1.25 or 1.50, and often “mixed with vegetables” at that price.   The poor man’s best protein option in El Salvador is still, by far, BEANS.

Let’s make a sandwich and have a snack.    PACKAGED HAM  – about the SAME prices as El Salvador.   I used to buy packs of ham down there for around 3 bucks each, and they were ‘higher end’.  “DANI'” brand ham, which is not as good as this Market Basket kind, was 2 dollars and change, about the same as this 8 oz bag of ham, $2.29 at MB.   CHEESES of European or American Style kind, as in hard or sharp tasting, cost MORE there.   This Muenster cheese seen here is cheaper > in E.S. and you’re also getting the “store” brand discount, $2.99 for 10 oz, so about 5 bucks a pound.  El Salvador?  $7-9 a pound, much MORE for Muenster cheese.   Because it’s not made there far as I know so you’re paying for an imported product.   Hard sliceable style cheeses are hardly ever made there, and when so, a niche product.  There’s a store called “Greif” or something like that which makes cheeses and specialty packaged meats.  European food, and European style prices.   The cake on the far right is more of an American-style sweet, I found cakes the same size for around $2.50 or $3.00 in El Salvador.   Most Salvadorans eat “pan dulce” which are bakery-fresh cookies sold at the grocer or often on the back of trucks or bicycled around the neighborhood.

Onions and Potatoes.  SAME price in El Salvador.  American price =  about the same as the “veggie” truck in El Salvador.  Market price in El Salvador would be slightly less.    I was surprised to see I was getting about the same amount of vegetable’s worth for a $1 as I would back in El Salvador.

Bathroom needs.  El Salvador’s pricing is EXACTLY or ALMOST the same!   Shampoo and other GROOMING products offer no 3rd world discount, so be prepared.   Colgate – manufactured in Latin America, and maybe right there in good old Salvy-land, is sold for pretty much the same price as here – I don’t remember seeing regular size tubes of toothpaste for < $1 in El Salvador.    TP – the “Nevax” brand I bought in El Salvador was somewhere between the Quilted Northern and Angel Soft brands here in terms of quality, and cost about $2.50 – 2.70 or so, depending on the store in El Salvador.  Sometimes I’d catch a sale at $2.25 a package, and would buy extra .

And now for the GOOD NEWS:   El Salvador beats the United States HANDS DOWN with tropical fruits and veggies.   I would hope so!

These PLANTAINS at 3 for a buck in Market Basket are much smaller  > their Salvadoran counterparts.   Plantains are about 5 for a dollar in El Salvador, and way bigger.   If you go to the market you get an even better deal > the veggie truck.  AVOCADOS are either 3 for a dollar or 2 for a dollar at the most down there.   Since I was in the great Market Basket food haven, these avocados are a buck each, but in other stores would be $1.29 or 1.50 apiece.   Avocados are considered a pricier vegetable in El Salvador, and not always available, but often grow on people’s trees, along with bananas, oranges and mangos.

This PAPAYA in the U.S. is about $3.25 after weighing it in.   I selected one the same size as I’d find down there for anywhere from $1 to $1.50 total.  Nice to see they’re less than half the cost in El Salvador.

Gee, CABBAGE heads are a wee bit SMALL in the United States.   They grow cabbage in the mountains of El Salvador, way up in places like La Palma, or Las Pilas, or El Pital or San Fernando de Morazan, all mountainous areas of Chalatenango.     We drove by patches around there.    Cabbage heads in el Salvador are MONDO sized compared to the ones here, and cost about $1 each, maybe $1.50, $2 tops for super big mondo size.     This head in the U.S. is about half the size, maybe 2/3 tops of what you’d find down there and cost a total of $1.20.      So like the papaya, the cost for cabbage in El Salvador is half or less > the U.S.

BEANS and SUGAR:   El Salvador wins.  Heck, they better, stuff is grown there, right?   When we left El Salvador, beans were .60-.75 a pound.   They’re about $1.50 a pound here.  I cannot remember the exact price for sugar down there, but it feels like we’re paying twice as much here.  No problem,we make lots more, right?

COFFEE  – a mixed bag.   Coffee SHOULD be cheaper down in El Salvador, but I did not observe that while we were there.  Bags of coffee for a coffee machine range anywhere from $4-$7 a bag there, about the same as here, I think.   Instant coffee seems more expensive here > in El Salvador, and that’s a good thing, bc most poor people I know drink Nescafe Cafe Listo down there – a product you don’t find here.

MANGOS.   El Salvador WINS the mango prize.  In El Salvador, during season, mangos are ubiquitous, and there  a dozen or more varieties.

This type of mango pictured above sells for 3 for $1, sometimes 5 for a dollar in El Salvador in the market and via street vendors.  Super Selectos might be as high as 60-70 cents a mango if not mid-season, but you always pay more for produce there > at the market.   Even so, mangos are half or less than what they cost here.

What’s more, in many places in El Salvador, mangos are FREE!  They grow all over the place so people are picking them off of trees everywhere, and selling them on the roadside, you almost cant get rid of them.

A good mango story for you:  When my husband and his friends get together and talk about hard times between the two countries, they almost always mention mangos.  “Yeah,” one will say, “When I’m out of work in the U.S. I’ve still gotta pay rent, insurance, the whole bit.  But back home I can always live free with family, and if I’m hungry, I can ALWAYS EAT MANGOS OFF THE TREES.”   There’s no free fruits and veggies growing wild (or considered common property) over here.   Prices are cheaper in the U.S., but like they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch!


Two other Cost of Living in El Salvador (versus the U.S.) that may interest you:

Sticker shock going both ways for a Thanksgiving tribute to American consumerism, and
Some Stuff Costs Less, Some Costs more  with lots of details to help expats living in El Salvador

Where do Pineapples come from?   4 comments

I’m on a roll today, like a biology teacher, can’t help myself, this is fun.  Right around Christmastime, I was visiting my friend Ileana not far from the Cuscatlán stadium.  She has a small yard in front of her house, and prides herself in having the “nicest” one of all her neighbors.  She really does.  Don Chico, an old man and reformed alcoholic (who she herself helped reform) used to come by and tend to her garden, until the poor soul passed away recently.   This post is in memory of Don Chico, may his spirit come to life again through all things that grow in front of  Ileana’s house.

So while in her front yard that day, I looked down at this spikey looking plant, and had to do a double-take.  I saw this little thing growing out of it, and wouldn’t you know, if it wasn’t the tiniest little pineapple you’ve ever seen?

There you have it folks, this is where pineapples come from.  You learn something new every day.  And if you’re lucky enough to live there, you get to see it up close and in person.

The Pineapple of El Salvador.   Grows out of a spikey plant that looks like an aloe, before it ripens and gets cut, then transported thousands of miles, far far away to a Supermarket near you.

Where do Cashews come from?   6 comments

When you live in a northern climate, far away from the tropics, you never get a chance to see where some of your  yummies come from.   Kicking back on the couch on a chilly winter night, maybe with the gang, you pop open a can of mixed nuts and watch the football game.  A couple peanuts here, maybe an almond or two, if it’s the deluxe mix, a brasil nut or two, and oh – your favorite – cashews.  Ever wonder where they come from?

On one of my first trips to El Salvador, my husband pulled over on the road and showed me these fruits.  “See these?,” he asked me “These have nuts inside them.  Semilla de marañon.”    I looked at this tree with all these yellow fruits, and at the bottom of each one was a funny looking thing, kind of grayish green, that appeared to be growing out of it.  Strangely enough, it was in the shape of something very familiar.   It was one of those naive gringa “wow” moments the natives here like to giggle at us for.    Each marañon, as they are called in Spanish, will grow a seed, not on the inside of its fruit, like most fruits do*, but as a funny bud on the end, in an extremely hard shell, with the seed inside.  And that seed, my friends, is the cashew.    You cannot bite the seed open, it has to be roasted, and be sure to have a lot of fresh air when doing so, if you ever try, as the smoke can be toxic.

Here they are, hanging on the tree. You can see the hard-shell off the end of the sweet fruit part, which has the cashew in it.

A red variety of cashew fruit here in El Salvador

Fresco de Marañón I made the other day. I think you're supposed to peel them first. I'll be sure to next time.

* The sweet fruit of the marañon tree is a false fruit, according to Wiki, and it actually grows after the “real” fruit, which is the seed.  

Strange Fruit: Spikey and Red, the Mamon Japones   1 comment

Mamon Japones - Rambutan

There are words you learn in a second language you literally do not know the name for in your own because you never encountered that “thing” in your mother tongue.

I thought it was a lychee, but apparently its a close relative called a Rambutan.

Mamon ( Mamones – plural ) is the Salvadoran word for a tropical fruit I never ate or remember seeing back home.   The ones I’m eating now are golfball size, and I’ve never seen them any bigger than that.  Lisa Dang’s post shows Rambutan’s a lot bigger, though.

The skin of this exotic fruit comes off by breaking it with your finger or using a knife if its stubborn. I think they are not quite ripe if the skin is tough; the flavor is more sour on those whose skin breaks easier.  The flesh is a white cream color, and it tastes both sweet and sour.   This pic from last year in October shows them at 5  cents a piece, and yesterday I got 20 in the market downtown for 50 cents, a full year later.

Prices of fruits and vegetables vary in the market, as well as for maize and beans, depending on if they are in/out of season and how well the crop turned out, so they can down just as soon as up. Funny thing, I’ve never seen a Supermarket drop the prices of fruits or grains.  Hmmm….

Courtesty of Wikipedia - click for page / link

Another Mamon fruit worth mentioning is the Mamon Verde (Mamones verdes) .  In El Salvador, the word Mamon is used for two different fruits – the Mamon Japones [Japonese style Rambutin] depicted above, and here on the left, which is the Mamon verde (green) [ known to us as a  Spanish lime, or mamoncillo].


This Mamon has a smooth shiny green skin, and its flesh is a peachy color instead of whitish with the red spiky one.  The green Mamon is quite sour and makes you pucker up.   I have been walking in the country with people and we picked and ate them, but was never lucky enough to pick the spiky cousin in the wild before.

Strange Fruit: the amazing Anona   8 comments

The anona is a delicious fruit grown in El Salvador.  It is green on the outside, and looks like a distant cousin of the artichoke, with bumpy skin.

On the inside, the anona is not like any fruit I can describe from the U.S. but perhaps a combination.  If you can imagine a sourish type of apple whose texture was not firm when you bit in, but smushy.  That’s as close as I can get, but so you have come here and try one to experience it.

The fruit is slightly pasty, with a grainy texture, and sour.  It has hard seeds inside of pocketed sections of the yummy fruit.

When in season, which it is now, women can be seen on the roadside selling it, and walking around neighborhoods with them, for usually .50-.75 or $1+ each for larger anonas.  Click any picture to enlarge.

Posted September 4, 2011 by El Salvador from the Inside in Fruit

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A Trip to the Finca “Tito”   4 comments

Fruits of the Finca: marañón, mango de coco, maracuya, manzana de agua

Two Sunday’s ago, I was invited to a Finca in Nueva Concepción.  It was a real treat.

Our host was Tito, an older gentleman who was delighted to have us, and chock full of good stories of days-gone-by. Pictures of us, below, with Tito and the famous 5 pound mango.

As always, CLICK on a PICTURE to enlarge – these are fun fruit shots.


Thinking the Finca would be a distance from the center of town, I was surprised to see it was literally “steps away” from the main market.  We turned left onto the street at one end of the market and right there, almost across from the side entrance was a short dirt road we turned onto, which leads to Tito’s Finca and Auto-Hotel.

One thinks of a Finca as being “in the country’ and a fair distance from town, but being so close, this walk-ability turns out to be a very good thing for Tito. Tito had worked in a textile ‘fabrica’ for 34 years.  Straining his eyes every day, often into the night hours, he can no longer see things in the left field of vision of his left eye; this resulted in two accidents within one month, so no more driving for him these days.

Tito told us how he used to fix the machines in the mill, and that he knew them all so well, when he walked into the fabrica and a machine was ‘off’ he could tell, and would say, “something Better check the machines, one of them isn’t working right.”

The Finca was relaxing and a great diversion.  It was extremely hot, as it is in that area of Chalatenango, but we stayed cool in the pool.  It’s a common misconception that Chalatenango has Cooler weather (‘Chalatenango es Frecso’), even among Salvadorans. *

Tito was a great host.  We passed him walking into town to make a few purchases as we drove on the driveway and he told us straightaway to hit the pool, he’d be right back.We spent some time in the pool and the kids had a blast.  I was holding my sister-in-law’s baby, and she being much ‘whiter’ or “chelita” than other kids, I tried my best to shelter her in a small corner of the pool in the shade.  So much for that – later when my sister in law had her, they were all over the place, and I felt so foolish trying to “protect her” from the sun – this is a very American thing, and likely more necessary with people of serious northern-skinned ancestry.  Although little Wendy is on the pale side, her mother’s nickname is “Morena” – which means dark-skinned, and by day’s end little Wendy showed no signs of looking pink or red.

Tito was so generous, I would say almost OVER-generous, with us.  After the pool festivities winded down, and it appeared things were wrapping up, Tito announced “And now we’re going to have a little lunch….”   This little lunch was a GIANT box of Pollo Campero with all the trimmings – fries, slaw, bread, and flan.   He had picked up some horchata as a cool refreshment, and even bought a six-pack of beer for us ‘adult ladies’ to drink.

While we ate lunch, Tito told us stories from when he grew up on this Finca.  His parents had him help keep “watch” for small animals and other intruders, outfitting him with a hunting rifle to keep vigil at the age of nine! Tito showed us the tip of a nail sticking out of a large tree near the patio.  You see this nail, he said, when I was nine I’d hang the rife on it, and would sleep right here, on this root of the tree….at that time the nail, which was about a foot long, was nailed only 3 inches or so into the tree.  Look at now…it shows how much this tree has grown – only 2 inches of it is left sticking out!

Although Tito grew up at the Finca, at the age of 17 he left abruptly.  You see, he explained, I was talking to a young girl my age right here, in the brush – he gestured – when a neighbor saw us, and well, my mom sent me to “work in El Salvador” straightaway to keep me out of trouble.  That’s when I started working at the Fabrica, he said, and he’d worked there ever since, the job he held his whole life.

Living in San Salvador, he married and raised children there, but always longed for the life he remembered back at the Finca.The Finca passed through different hands during those years, first from his father to his brother.  Then his brother sold it to his mother, and his mother ‘willed it’ (I really bought it, Tito explained, having given his mother money almost every weekend as he was working).  Tito moved back to Nueva Concepción to take over the Finca 16 years ago.

Tito’s three children live in and around San Salvador, and make it out here once every 2 or 3 months.  Raised in the city, unlike their father, a Finca in a country town might not have the same appeal to them.  Tito also has three step-children whom he’s in touch with daily.  He says every day before he goes to bed at 9:00, he talks with each of them, all 3 living in the United States; he never goes to bed without doing so.  Tito believes kids who aren’t from your own biology often appreciate you more than your own children.  It appears in this case at least, the relationships you have to ‘work at’ instead of the ones that are automatically set up for you can become ones you treasure.  It also helps that Tito had a lot of practice with the first three before the second set came along.

He told us he is also close with his helper / ayudante; this young man has been with him for ten years, and by now they are like father and son. Even though it is his day off, Anibal stopped by to help clean up the pool to prepare for Tito’s grand-daughter’s visit later in the day.  He really liked Wendy, and asked if he could pick her up.  You could see that he, like many Salvadorans, adores children.  While in many parts of the Western world, children are often partitioned from adults and adult activities, children are seen and cherished everywhere here, and are called “blessings from God” ( Bendiciones de Dios ).

For a Salvadoran coming from a somewhat older generation, I was surprised at some of Tito’s viewpoints, and discovered him to be a bit unique from most:  he seemed to have a libertarian attitude in some respects broke from the religious mores in another. He announced quite firmly at one point:  “I don’t believe in the Devil!”  This is a bold statement here, as nearly everyone in El Salvador is indoctrinated in one main Christian religion, often Roman Catholic or some version of Evangelism. He said humans are always trying to overcontrol each other with all these rules and systems and don’t let people live as they should.  Regarding teenage pregnancy, he said “You know what he problem is when a young girl gets pregnant?”  It’s the “Panza!”  ( her big belly ).  Everyone is ‘ashamed’ because their daughter is walking around with a big belly but soon after the baby is born their the first to go spoiling it with all kinds of things.

After lunch was done, Tito sent us off to pick fruit, even providing large plastic bags to fill up, saying take all we want, there’s plenty.  At his Finca, there are mangos, bananas (guineos), maracuya (passsion fruit), guayaba (guava), limes, and a few orange trees. Morena went crazy picking the “loroco” which was intermingled with the passion fruit vines, a favorite among salvadorans pan-fried and cooked with cream, or most often in pupusas with cheese.  Also, a leafy plant called ‘moro’ I think, which Jessica and Morena grabbed tons of, is used in cooking.

Manzana de Agua (no es marañon japanes)

An odd fruit which I thought was Marañon Japones (Japanese cashew-fruit) is really called watery apple (manzana de agua).

It looks peculiar and does taste watery!

Jessica was a brave fruit soldier. She climbed way up the giant mango tree and pulled these big ones down with a special fruit picker a flexible net basket on a metal ring, attached to a long bamboo pole. She grabbed ’em and I pulled them out the basket.

Check out this GIANT mango.
These are called
Mango de Coco -Coconut Mango, on
account of their large size.

Here’s Jessica, with Guayabas- isn’t she gorgeous?
Jessica, with Guayabas

* In actuality, a few geographic pockets within the department of Chalatenango have a cooler climate, mountainous areas usually  famous for tourism such as La Palma, or mountaintop towns like Las Pilas and El Pital.  San Fernando de Morazan is a mountain town we visited once, driving through Dulce Nombre de Maria to get there.  Many parts of Chalatenango are hot and dry, including where my husband grew up near Agua Caliente. Farms and cows everywhere, hot and dusty during the dry season.

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