By Laura Fries
With the bright green foliage of spring fading quickly, summer creeps up on unsuspecting San Antonians like a determined Lothario. He seduces with a practiced hand, slipping a perfect, sunny day into a string of gloomy, rainy afternoons - just enough sunshine to make us crave bare legs and flip-flops. But more effective are his calling cards, little treasures he has waiting for us: rows of summer corn, ripe with moisture in their husks, sweet Texas onions, and box upon box of fresh citrus in every imaginable form.
Summer has been doing this a long time, and he knows the best way to make us fall for him is to convince us we're doing it of our own accord. With this in mind, he hides the most luscious of his offerings in out-of-the-way places, like the Chicho Boys produce market just west of downtown. Like many markets, Chicho Boys is nothing exciting from the outside: a modest building, with an open-air browsing area sealed off from banana-thieving monkeys by strands of razor wire.
And at first glance, it seems underwhelming. The produce, while abundant, is not immediately distinguishable from that proffered by H-E-B. It's only with a cart in hand that the difference becomes immediately noticeable: Everything is dirt-cheap. A 14-count box of ripe mangos retails for an astonishing $2.99, and a two-pound bag of beautiful purple potatoes is priced at a low 99 cents a pound. Compare this to Central Market, where mangos go for 79 cents a pound, and the purple potatoes for a whopping $2.99 a pound. Ernest Lopez, who has been assistant manager for two-and-a-half years, explains the price difference proudly: "We have more turnover than them; we work harder than they do." The market's motto, he relates, is "good quality produce on the shelf at an inexpensive price."
Black plums, tangelos, and Valencia oranges find their way into my shopping cart. For less than two dollars, I've got enough nature-snacks to almost mitigate the effects of those Fiesta turkey legs. (Well, almost.) •
By Laura Fries