Tag along with Sarah Kenney as she discovers the many colors of Houston’s Canino’s Farmer’s Market.
Text And Photo By Sarah Kenney
All of the hard work of the high school Junior year is coming to a climax. Testing, testing, and more testing for my daughter. SAT’s, ACT’s, Subject tests, and AP tests will fill up the next 2 months. I registered her to be tested at our local high school nearby.
A few days before the test, as I checked our paperwork, I noticed we had a rather big…Problem. Houston is ridiculously HUGE. There are 2 high schools with the exact same name in this gi-mormous city. One in our neighborhood…And…one clear across Houston about 45 minutes away. Yes, she was registered at the latter.
Who would have guessed? Not me, apparently!
So, we packed up early Saturday morning and trucked over, at the crack of dawn, to the OTHER high school for testing.
Never one to miss an opportunity for something to explore, I had heard about this huge Mexican outdoor market in that area of Houston called Canino’s Farmer’s Market.
My poor daughter…hours of testing ahead of her. But, what was a mother to do, however, with all of this enviable spare time? After dropping her off with pitiful look on my face that said, “I’m so sorry you have to take hours and hours of testing“, I rather feverishly sped away. I was in search of this much talked about market.
Arriving at Canino’s Farmer’s Market was like crossing a line at some point on the drive and entering a completely different culture. Holy Guacamole! Arriving at the market, I couldn’t help but think this market is huge! I definitely felt like I had left the U.S. and journeyed south into the lands of Mexico. This must be what everyone is calling a “Staycation“!
Come along with me as I explore this vast market and meet the wonderful Mexican population of Houston. Here is where everything for the Mexican, Central and South American kitchen can be stocked for authentic South American dishes. I trundled home with all sorts of new items to discover in my kitchen.
Huge mounds of cactus leaves told me that I wasn’t at my nearby Kroger anymore. This market is a moving feast for the eyes…a cacophony of sounds for the ears…an enticing array of aromas for the nose… and a passion for food and culture that so, so warms my heart.
Peppers, peppers, peppers were everywhere. All different shapes and colors, bursting with glossy hues of red and green and yellow.
Trucks were loaded with produce. The air was stimulated with hustle and bustle as stalls opened, families with children all worked together to unload more and more food, and snippets of Spanish rang throughout this enormous market.
Isn’t this little girl precious with those rosy cheeks? She was so sweet and helpful trying to answer my questions about tomatillos, cactus, and yucca roots.
Many items at this market were jarred like tomato relishes and peaches. Corn grinders lined the tops of stalls to make the popular and delicious tortillas.
Thank you ACT tests for taking hours and hours because I was moving at a snails pace trying to savor and devour this enormous venue. Items I had never seen before were overhead, in bins, crates, and baskets. Produce of every color, shape, and texture was spilling out of every corner.
After about an hour of wandering the market and trying to calm my senses and take in all of the new sights and sounds, I began to smell the most enticing aromas. Grilled onions, corn, slow cooked beef met my olfactory organs and worked their magic leading me straight to the back of the market.
Fresh baked tortillas with grilled vegetables and slow cooked beef and pork were being sold in delicious looking soft tacos. People were lingering around these stalls ordering their food and generally relaxing with one other. The weather was beautiful and it felt like a perfect Spring day.
I wasn’t hungry a minute ago but with the hypnotic allure of these gorgeous smells, all of sudden I seemed to be starving!
I decided to get in line with the locals and indulge in one of those soft tacos. Somehow, I didn’t seem to blend because there were quite a few stares coming my way.
How does this look? Delicious? Yes ma’am it was. The pork was grilled and spicy. The onions and peppers were hot and caramelized. A thick slice of avocado rested on top. I scooted right up to the little metal bar and ate my soft taco with everyone else. I don’t speak Spanish but we laughed and mmm’d and aaah’d over our barbequed meal.
Re-energized again, it was time to explore what appeared to be another entirely new section of the market. Peppers, peppers, and more peppers awaited me at almost every stall.
I have been wanting to make this spread that I saw in Martha Stewart’s magazine. It calls for fresh fava beans. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I was hopeful that they might show up here. And they did!!
I also have been shocked at the price of fresh vanilla beans in my local grocery store. Here I came upon a barrel filled with vanilla beans for a fraction of the cost. Another recipe came to mind that I now could make…..
Prickly pears and bulging sacks of cinnamon certainly caught my attention. I’ll be googling how to cook Mexican dishes with these items when I get home.
Finally, after sampling sprinkles of spices over cool watermelon, roasted peanuts, and a tasty lime flavored soft taco, it was time to end my “staycation”. As I got back in the car and crossed that imaginary line somewhere and left behind the beautiful culture of Mexico, I worked hard on re-installing that pitiful pained look on my face as I picked up my bedraggled and brain-worn out daughter.
“How was it, sweetheart?” I whimpered expressively with a countenance of complete understanding and pity. “I thought of you toiling away in there hour after hour. Why don’t we go home and I’ll make you….perhaps…
Fava bean salad, something with fresh vanilla beans possibly, perhaps… something with cinnamon (lots of it), prickly pears, yucca roots?”
Off we went went, back to suburbia knowing that however her testing went, I’m sure there will be good things to eat!