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Oaxaca has become one of our favorite food destinations in Mexico. A few weeks ago we visited the city again, but this time it wasn’t the moles or the decadent regional food that caught our attention, but an organic market where we had a delicious breakfast one morning.

El Pochote (named after a thorny, flowering tree native to Central America) is an organization of local organic producers that was founded in November 2003 by local artist Francisco Toledo.

The market offers all kinds of products, from vegetables and fruits to prepared meals and juices. The main objective of the market is to support those who grow or make healthy products of excellent quality, who interact with the natural environment in a way that respects local ecosystems and who maintain and increase the fertility of the soil and land.

Founding member Rocío Guzmán, an organic coffee producer for more than 20 years, sat with us at her stand, Café Maravilla, while we waited for our coffee – a very robust high-altitude coffee from Pluma Hidalgo, Oaxaca – to finish brewing. “We are 22 producers now,” she told us, “and we all work hard to bring the best products and food to our customers in accordance with our objectives.”

El Pochote is set up in a large lot in downtown Oaxaca. The vendors have fixed spaces lined up around the venue, and in the middle, surrounding a large pochote tree, sit wooden tables and chairs. Customers order directly from the food vendors and seat themselves at any of those tables, the vendors bring the food to them when it’s ready, and the customers pay up at the individual stalls when they’re finished.

On our visit, we ordered an omelet stuffed with mushrooms and spinach and served with a large green salad from Mamá Lechuga, which became our favorite stall right away. We returned there for lunch and had a delicious chicken breast stuffed with cheese, accompanied by a specialty green juice from El Pochote.

We shopped for jams, jellies, cookies and a few sweets and also left the market with a kilo of organic coffee to brew at home. When shopping at the markets in Oaxaca, you feel a special connection with the earth and the producers who grow the goods you’re buying. At El Pochote, however, that connection is even stronger because you get to meet the producers face-to-face and get a taste of what real, local, seasonal food is supposed to be like.

Ben Herrera

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