The open-air Mercado Central de San Pedro offers a window into Andean culture. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Some people sneak away for illicit romps on the beach when on vacation. I sneak off to food markets. Sometimes I even bring home a souvenir — or a bag of them.
Last month, when I ate my way through as much of Peru as I could, I stopped in at a number of markets, including the super-antiseptic Wong supermarket in Lima and the fly-happy Mercado Central de San Pedro in Cusco. Wherever I went, I received a firsthand education about the wealth of Peruvian produce.
What follows is a collection of photographs from my journeys through the markets. Take a look, but be forewarned: Some scenes are not for the faint of heart.
Peru may be known for its potatoes, but the country produces a trove of delicious fruits, most of them unknown in North America. This is one of many fruit stands at the San Pedro market. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Speaking of potatoes, Peru is basically Spud Central. The International Potato Center in Lima notes the country grows 4,000 varieties of them. The San Pedro market in Cusco can sell but a few. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
There is a long history of cheesemaking in the Andes, much of it now made with milk from cows, which were introduced to Peru by the Spanish. Among the varieties is one called paria, a highland cheese said to channel the flavors of the Andes. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The traditional pan chuta is sold everywhere in Cusco, including the San Pedro market, and is apparently baked in wood-burning ovens with eucalyptus leaves, which give the wheat-based bread a distinct flavor. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
You can buy a whole, freshly slaughtered pig right at the San Pedro market. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Donkey snouts, I was told, are used by home cooks to make broths. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
This Andean herb, sometimes known as Peruvian black mint or wild marigold, is regularly used in Peruvian cooking. I sampled it as part of a dipping sauce at the Inka Grill in Cusco. It was sweet, slightly spicy and delicious. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The tumbo — the pale-yellow, oblong specimen at the center — is a tart fruit sometimes used as an alternative to Peruvian limes in seviche. Some say that the Incas used the juice of the tumbo to marinate their fresh fish. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Peruvian purple corn, like these ears spotted at a Wong supermarket in Lima, are the base for a superb nonalcoholic punch called chicha morada. (A recipe here from Slash/Food.) (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The green, scaly-looking fruit is known as the cherimoya, and, according to this document, it is classified in Peru by the “degree of surface irregularity,” such as “Lisa” (almost smooth) and “Impressa ” (with fingerprint depressions). (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The aji verde pepper may be better known as the aji amarillo, which is used in a number of iconic Peruvian dishes such as aji de gallina and papa a la Huancaina. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Master distiller and restaurateur Johnny Schuler takes a deep whiff of the lucuma, a fruit with a custardy aroma, which is often used to make ice cream in Peru. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
* Pollo a la brasa, two ways: Peruvian and American
* It’s a whole New World of Peruvian cuisine