Let’s visit Argentina’s Puerto de Frutos: an island produce market supplied by boat

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Dario's floating produce market. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Dario’s floating produce market. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

There are few places on earth like Delta del Tigre, Argentina. This geographic formation of hundreds of small islands can only be reached by boat. It is one of Argentina’s jewels.

From Buenos Aires, long ferry rides along the Parana River can be combined with afternoons wandering around hundreds of stands on the Puerto de Frutos open air market on the north of the city.

The Puerto de Frutos (Fruit Port) was built in 1933 as a way to export fruits and vegetables from the small farms in the islands to different parts of Argentina. It opened as a public market in 1938. Even though it has been modernized, one can still enjoy its unique, antique charm.

For many years, the port was the main produce provider in Buenos Aires. With time, most of the vendors moved their business to the city’s Central Market, but the Puerto de Frutos kept its name. Now wicker is the primary product, but there is still room for some organic produce vendors.

Succulents and vegetables. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Succulents and vegetables. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Joyful vendors

As I approach one of the first vendors on a recent visit, I can tell people are having fun. Cristina not only receives you with a welcoming smile, but also with samples of her best produce.

Cristina says she has been in business as long as she can remember. Her father decided to take a risk and start a small grocery here. As she tells me, and I can easily agree, there’s nothing like working every day with the river as backdrop.

Shopping for plants and seedlings. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Shopping for plants and seedlings. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

A few meters away, busy vendors Nadia and Juan Pablo explain that they decided to bet on the Puerto de Frutos because of its vibrant energy and always-changing population.

Even though they are fairly new to the market, Nadia and Juan Pablo have a long experience of working with plants and teaching people how to grow their own produce. The message they want to transmit is that everyone should have at least one home-grown product and that it is an easy task, no matter the size of the balcony or garden. Connecting people to the earth is their main goal.

As the sun starts going down, a floating produce market slows to land near the shore. Darío, the captain and grocer, starts tying down the boat while people begin to ask for prices. This is one of the many boats that each day make the rounds between islands selling organic produce.

As I approach the boat I can tell I will be taking home more than poetic pictures. Darío is a middle aged man who looks like a character out of a book. The river has given him a tan and he wears a full beard. He tells me he has been in this business for more than 20 years, when he decided to change his hectic lifestyle in the city for quiet afternoons touring the Parana Delta.

Darío says he found a great interest in organic produce among the local population as well as the thousands of travelers that come here each weekend. He started contacting organic farmers and the Central Market to acquire the produce he is selling. He adds that raw honey and quince are very popular these days.

Dried and pickled fruits. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Dried and pickled fruits. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

How to visit

With this sunny day ending, lights begin to sparkle. Local families and travelers merge, and Tigre and the Puerto de Frutos transform into a gastronomic strip.

The Puerto de Frutos is open every weekend from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m in the winter.

Dried flowers. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Dried flowers. Photo: Virginia Cinquegrani

Virginia Cinquegrani

Virginia Cinquegrani is a psychologist living in Buenos Aires with her dog Felipe. Foodie at heart, clean eater by choice, you can find her trying new veggie recipes in the kitchen or exploring the organic markets in the city.

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