Spring arrives in Mexico City in February, with the purple-blossoming jacaranda trees you see in the foreground. Behind the trees, our Centro Histórico's (historic center) iconic dome of the Palacio de Bellas Artes and behind that, the emblematic Torre Latinoamericana. All photos copywrite Mexico Cooks! unless noted otherwise.
Spring comes early to central Mexico. The sun's new strength brings sweater-shedding warmth, gusty breezes, and flowers by the millions. Bougainvillea, jacaranda, and primavera (Tabebuia chrysotricha, above photo) trees riot into bloom. We sigh over our streets, temporary rainbows of fallen blossoms. Photo courtesy Javier Palafox.
For indoor flowers--arrangements for any occasion from birth to the tomb, or for fresh cut flowers to arrange yourself, for corsages, and even for big plastic bags of rose petals--your first stop in Mexico City is the Mercado de Jamaica: our wholesale flower market. It's a snap for Mexico Cooks! to hop on the Metro closest to our home (the Chilpancingo stop along Metro Line 9, third from left in the photo), ride four stops, and hop off at Metro Jamaica. Yes, the market has its own Metro stop! Its symbol is an ear of corn. Click on any photo to enlarge the image for a better look. Photo courtesy Metro DF.
On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, I took a friend on his first visit to this magical market. When you exit the Metro and enter the shopping area, the Mercado de Jamaica looks like most Mexico City markets: as far as the eye can see, it's stalls of vendors selling everything from pet supplies to piñatas and from pirate CDs to plastic gewgaws, doodads, and thingamajigs. Above, small candies for sale by the gram or the kilo.
Still in the produce section of the market, we found a basket of huitlacoche (corn fungus). To the left and at bottom, you see fungus that has been cut off the cob. At the top and right are ears of corn fungus, still in the fresh green husks. It just doesn't get any fresher than this.
If you keep walking toward what you might think is the back of the market, you will pass through a section devoted to meat vendors and chicken vendors. The photo above is a tub of unlaid egg yolks, taken from recently-butchered hens.
Pass through a slightly damp passageway and you reach your reward: the enormous market section of wholesale flower vendors. It's a revelation, I promise you, and one that will leave you delighted. For example, several vendors were selling these roses and others of all colors in bundles of six dozen--for 30 pesos (about $2.00 USD). One of the vendors told me that at special flower-oriented times of year like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, the same bundles sell for 120 pesos (just over $9.00 USD). At either price, they're a bargain.
At this season of the year, lilies are what's in order. From casablanca to stargazer to standard-issue day lilies, you'll find what you want for an Easter bouquet.
These alstromeria-filled small bird cages hung from bare-branched tree limbs. The cages also held rose buds, daisies, and baby's breath. They'd be just the ticket to decorate for a bridal shower or quinceañera (girl's 15th birthday). With so wide a range of colors available in both alstromerias and roses, you could match any dress tones.
In this part of Mexico, funeral flowers are always white. These crosses are designed to be sent to a funeral home or to the home of the person who has passed away. Many deceased are still 'waked' at home. In addition, for Catholics, the rosary is usually said at home for nine days after a death. Flowers and candles are pure white. The many-colored bouquets behind and to the side of the crosses are for wedding or other party decor.
Spring has sprung! Some of the vendors at the Mercado de Jamaica specialize in exotic flowers, like the ones at the far right center of the photo. Many vendors call their blooms by really colloquial and/or regional names. My friend asked the name of the grayish-green leaves in the center of the photo; the vendor said, "dólar" (dollar). You probably know the plant as silver dollar eucalyptus.
This delightful young man sat talking with a friend while he held a charmingly feminine bouquet. We joked about whether he was to be the bride, which tickled him no end. He turned the same pink as the roses!
Alcatraces (calla lilies) sold in bud, like these, will open up little by little in your home. Did you know that Alcatraz, the prison near San Francisco, California, is named for this flower?
Believe it or not, this is just one small corner of the baby's breath for sale by one vendor. In Spanish, baby's breath is called nube (cloud). Almost every arrangement has some, filling in any available space.
Hortensias (hydrangeas), in shades ranging from white to purple. Similar plants, in full flower and with the pots gussied up with ivy, moss, and ribbons, graced the tables at a party at our former home in Morelia. They made perfect and very inexpensive centerpieces.
One corner of our Morelia garden, dressed to the nines for the party. When the festivities were over, we planted the hydrangeas in our borders.
These bouquets of roses, bells of Ireland, and baby's breath from the Mercado de Jamaica were arranged on porcelain plates. Aren't they gorgeous? Let's have a party! Better yet, let's take a market tour. You will love a day at the market.
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