Fruits of the season

Stacks of tangelos, oranges, and lemons await a buyer in the sun at Chicho Boys Produce Market. A sliver is missing from a ripe watermelon, exposing pink flesh, and onions, purple and white, nestle in a nearby cardboard crate. (Photos by Laura McKenzie)
Fruits of the season

By Laura Fries

Chicho Boys brings fresh fruit into the palms of our hands

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."

Chicho Boys
Produce Market

1631 S. Laredo
9:30am-6pm Mon-Sat
Major credit cards
Handicapped accessible
The corrugated steel interior houses the more delicate offerings, and families with small children fill their interior with squeaky-wheeled carts and screaming infants. In the back, boxes of cucumbers from Pacific Collier, and strawberries from Pacific Gold wait for their turn in the sun. Chicho Boys can offer its low prices, explains Lopez, because they buy in bulk directly from the distributor - buying whatever is fresh and passing along the savings to the customers.

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

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