There is an organic farmers market in Bogota. Every Sunday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The address is Calle 69, 6-20, up from Carrera 7 (up the street from the gas station). The google location will show Impact Hub Bogota. The farmers market is located in the courtyard. From the street, you will see the white tents above the brick wall.
They have quinoa in multiple variations, and acai food stand (move aside ice cream!), other ready-made foods, vegetables, soaps, and organic cleaning products.
This place is small and hard to find. There are only about seven stalls. The market has been there every Sunday for three years. Many of the vendors supply some of the restaurants in Bogota.
In my cultural classes about Colombia, it was made clear that “American” applied to everyone in this hemisphere, so the proper term for someone from the U.S.A. was “unitedstatesian.” Of course, here in Bogota, if you say that you are from New York, then the Colombians will say that you are an “American” or a “gringo” … so… so much for that.
Bogota has many “American” grocery items but some of them are very hard to find. But, most of the main grocery stores (like Carulla, Jumbo, and Exito) carry “American” goods. The specialized produce store, Surtifruver, has a meat counter and a cheese store, Cava de Queso, inside their stores. Also many items can be found at the Carulla on Calle 84 is what I call the “expat” Carulla as they carry pickled herring from Sweden and other items that expats look for.
The following are some of the items that I have found hard to find, and where to find them:
Sweet potato: sometimes called the “Peruvian camote” as the orange fleshed American sweet potato is used in Peruvian ceviche dishes (like the one in the photo above). This can be found in Paloquemao, not just at Peter’s Chinese vegetable stall, but at more and more places. They can’t be found every time I visit, but with more and more frequency.
Kale: Now it’s even available in styrofoam containers at Paloquemao. Also can be bought at the organic shop on Calle 72, and more and more, at the mainstream grocery shops.
Chili: It is possible to find chilis in Carulla, Surtifruver, etc. but the Chile Lady of Paloquemao has a wide assortment, both fresh and dried.
Lemons: seen sometimes in Pricesmart (Costco) and I’ve heard, in Exito.
Spring onions: Oh, you can find them, but they aren’t the succulent tender kind that I’m looking for.
Thai basil: It can be had once in a while in the Surtifruver on Calle 85. But, if you ask at the herb stalls at Paloquemao…. you will get some other herb with tight small leaves.
Mint: Also, if you ask for “menthe” you will get handed something that doesn’t quite smell like you imagined. If you want biggish mint leaves, then ask for “yerbabuena” and it’ll be good in your summer rolls.
Fresh milk: At Carulla on Tuesdays (and other days but Tuesday seems to be delivery day). Also, can be had from some organic grocery delivery companies.
The Chinese porcelain cat with the waving paw is the give-away. In the U.S., it’s called “napa cabbage” but in Bogota, it’s called “Chinese cabbage.” Whatever it’s called, it’s almost impossible to find in Bogota, I guess because it’s not a normal part of the diet here.
I went on the hunt. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I feel like in the months that I’ve lived in Bogota, more and more grocery stores are offering “Asian” vegetables like napa cabbage, daikon, and leafy greens other than spinach. But, in most of the stores, the Asian vegetables are droopy and expensive (whenever I buy bok choy in the market, it’s never the tiny ones served to me at Gran China but I guess they, as a restaurant, get preference). It’s better to go to Paloquemao. In particular, “Peter’s Fruits and Vegetables – Chinese Products Available” which I call “Peter’s Chinese Vegetable” just because I think it would sound better. There are quite a few stands in the same area of the market selling asparagus, giant daikon, arugula, chives, and leafy greens.The last time I went, I bought two large backpacks worth of vegetables and it cost me 24,000 pesos (about $11). There is a separate lady who sells nothing by chiles. The other “Asian vegetable” which is hard to find even in the U.S., is perilla leaf. Maki Roll on Carrera 11 sells that.
As an aside, Peter’s also sells sweet potato (yams to Americans and “Peruvian camote” here — a sweet potato with an orange color, used in Peruvian ceviche and North American food) and kale. Some of the vendors even use the English words and if they see a foreigner, they’ll call out “kale” or “sweet potato” to attract customers.