Rita and I recently returned to our home in Salinas on the southern Pacific Coast of Ecuador after our longest time away in the last five years. Between taking care of some business in the States, attending the International Living Boot Camp Conference in Santa Fe, and enjoying Thanksgiving with family, we were away from home for nearly four months. Once we returned to Ecuador, it didn’t take us long to remember the number one reason why we chose to live here – the weather!
It is not all about temperature and sunshine either – although after a few nights in the 20’s in east Tennessee we certainly appreciated arriving in Guayaquil to find it 84F and sunny. While we really enjoy getting back to a place where it is always comfortably warm, and the sunshine turns the ocean several shades of turquoise and blue, the other bonus of Ecuador’s climate is the stunning variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available year-round.
We arrived at the end of December, right at the beginning of mango season, which is a nice treat. North Americans don’t often get nice, sweet mangoes, but in our local Mercado they are 2 or 3 for a dollar. We can get the typical red and yellow variety of course, but we really enjoy the ones that are all yellow; they seem particularly sweet and juicy. Right now in our fridge we have mango slices, pitahaya, a four-pound pineapple, oritas (small, sweet bananas) and some papaya.
The fruit that really has us spoiled in Ecuador though is a common one in the US – good old strawberries. Unlike the mangoes, strawberries here are not seasonal. We have become used to being able to purchase fresh, red, and juicy strawberries all year long. Even better is the price: $1.25 per pound in the Salinas Mercado. Now we could take a 30-cent bus ride to the La Libertad market and pay $1, or take a trip into the Andes and pay even less, but we’re willing to spend the extra quarter for convenience.
Coming home after so much time in the US also reminded us how great fresh vegetables taste. Even though we were buying from local farmer’s markets when we could, nothing compares to the fresh produce we have in Ecuador, raised without chemicals and sold in the market stalls the next day. In Ecuador, you can taste the difference between varieties of lettuce, a carrot is an explosion of flavor, and you would not believe how good it smells when you slice open a fresh cabbage!
Potatoes are another real treat in Ecuador. There are hundreds of varieties available across the nation, and all of them have their own textures and flavors. That is one of the reasons it is such a treat to try locro de papas, the Ecuadorian potato soup, wherever you travel in this country. Each region has a unique take on it, as they mix varieties of potatoes and traditional preparations (I’m told a true locro must have at least three different types of potato).
There’s another peripheral advantage to living in a shorts-and-shirtsleeve environment, and not just restoring my killer tan! With processed foods, the holidays, and variable weather conditions back in the US, we both put on a few pounds. But after just a few weeks back in Salinas, the extra weight has melted away. Not from the equatorial sun, but from being able to go outside for a walk any time of the day or evening, without a care about the weather. We are back to walking 2-3 miles after breakfast, maybe a mile back and forth to the Mercado, and then another 2-3 miles after dinner as the tropical sun paints a fiery pink, red and orange glow across the western sky.
Clean air, a sea breeze, warm weather, and my winter strawberries. It is great to be back home in Ecuador!