Puerto Vallarta: how to eat organic

6 July 10

| Greening in PV |

Mangoes in Nayarit, Mexico

It’s mango mania around Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s central Pacific coast. Everywhere—mangoes, mangoes, mangoes. Awash in mangoes. Un problema fantastico!  In the early mornings where we’re staying, first I skim a flotilla of delicate coconut palm flowers floating in the pool, and scoop out chlorinated land crabs big as salad plates, up to a dozen a day. Then it’s mango time. There’s our handsome tree … no sprays, no fertilizer … ahhhh, creamy, incomparably sweet, organic mangoes. If I can get to them before the happy-happy-sing-sing birds; before the meter-long, iridescent-green iguana who leaves the mango skins hollowed out like gourds, the big stringy-hairy seeds obscenely at their sides. 

We gobble the ripe mangoes in thick slices, juices sluicing down our faces. We load mango onto our ensalada mixta, cut it up with other local fruit. We make mango salsa, mango marmalada, mango nieve … a creamy rich Mexican-style sorbet. Que problema! Too many mangoes! Before, we could not have imagined this problem. Now, we crave an apple. A pear. Proving once again that too much of anything is … too much.

At least we know our mangoes are organic, even if they aren’t certified or anything.

La Problema Mexicana

Harvesting organic lettuces for Organic Select Mexico near Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Organic Select: harvesting tender organic lettuces

Not so with fruits and veggies at the local fruterias. Visitors may assume industrial agriculture has not invaded developing countries such as Mexico.

Wrong.

If anything, the pesticides and fertilizers banned in the so-called First World may still be sold in much of the rest of the world.

And so, for green travelers, the big Mexican problema is not the much-maligned Moctezuma’s revenge.

 La Problema Organica

La problema to which we refer is eating organic in Mexico. It’s not that the stuff isn’t grown here. Organic farming and ranching are big business in Mexico, and growing fast. But almost all these products are shipped to el norte, the U.S. and Canadian markets, where demand and prices are higher. Domestic demand is growing, too, but is being choked by lack of supply. So when you see the occasional organic item listed on your Puerto Vallarta restaurant’s menu—salads, mostly—order it, of course, but go the extra step of thanking the manager or chef for caring about the health of their customers, the environment, the farm workers.

When you order fish, go local—around PV, that would include varieties like huachinango (red snapper) and dorado (mahi mahi), which are netted by fishing families in small boats. Oysters are wild harvested. Local shrimp, well, they’re more dicey: during the fall and winter season, wild shrimp (potentially good, if by-catch issues are successfully resolved) are harvested, but the rest of the year your shrimp is almost certainly pond farmed about 2 hours north, in and around San Blas (not good, because of mangrove and other wildlife habitat destruction and, in some cases, dubious aquaculture practices).

Is the Water Safe?

Restaurants here are required by law now to use purified water to wash produce, in ice cubes and for drinking. Most do, and if you get sick, it’s usually a hygiene issue—be careful with that street food! We’ve traveled extensively in Mexico, and in recent years have never gotten sick from a restaurant meal (knock on madera). We do eat the salads, except in the most basic of places, non-tourist places. Granted, we also do our research. We’re fussy when it comes to what we put in our bellies. Unless we have no choice, seldom do we just walk into a place we haven’t read about or had recommended to us. If we must, then the litmus tests are: is it busy with other customers? What does the food look like on their plates? Is the place clean-looking (the baños are always a good indicator)?

Buy Organic Here

Organic Superfoods tienda in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Organic Superfoods: go there

In Puerto Vallarta, the sole organic item usually stocked by regular supermarkets is almost always coffee. Look for Peñita de Occidente Café,  excellent organic beans grown and roasted in nearby Nayarit. PV’s lonely retail vanguard for organic food (as well as a few health and beauty products) is a tiny shop in Old Town (Zona Romántico): Organic Superfoods, 509 Venustiano Carranza. Stop by even if you’re not cooking where you’re staying—who can resist organic coconut ice cream on the half-shell? A hand-made chocolate turtle? If you’re in need of organic groceries, you will find frozen buffalo burger patties … gluten-free products … eggs and dairy … and much more. Including vegetarian and vegan items.

Organic Select Mexico in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MexicoBut there’s an even easier way. We’re talking weekly delivery right to your door. Organic Select Mexico is a “community-supported agricultural grass roots movement,” a local business of Mexican and North American families headed up by Oregonian Krystal Frost, who has spent years seeking out local and regional organic growers, interviewing producers and locating high-quality regional products, including its own urban organic garden. All to bring you flavorful, pesticide-free produce, flours, eggs, chicken, beef, breads and muffins, even prepared foods. Residents pay a yearly fee, but it’s waived for visitors—with a minimum order, which you can place online up to 4 days before delivery.

Buen provecho orgánico!

  • Fernando

    Just wanted to comment on the Organic Select group. Wow what an organization! My wife and I visited last year for a couple of weeks and were astounded to find, have contact with and arrange service with these great folks. We had fresh organic (great tasting of course) food the whole time we were there. We even stayed at two locations about an hour apart and Krystal and Ana were great in getting us what we needed at both places. Even gave us a ride to town! A must when in or around PV.

  • gtg2009

    Hi, Shelley — If you click on the link in this article to Organic Superfoods in Puerto Vallarta, you can see a listing of all their products for sale. And, yes, they DO include gluten-free baked goods. Be aware, though, that sometimes they run out of things and it can take a while for new stock to arrive. They don’t deliver or have subscribers, so you will have to take your chances at their store. Enjoy PV! — Gary at Green Traveler Guides

  • Shelley Egan

    Hi – My husband and I will be in Puerto Vallarta for about two weeks just after Christmas. If we stopped by your shop, would we be able to buy your gluten-free baked goods? We won’t be there long enough for a subscription or delivery.

    Thanks! Shelley

  • http://www.organic-select.com Krystal Frost

    thanks for your support and business during your Mexican travels. Let us know where your are going next we can hook you up with the organic producers..some very interesting stuff.

  • GTG Staff

    The pleasure was all ours. It couldn’t have happened at a better place…the best little beach bar in Sayulita.

  • Greg and Cindy Marcon

    What a fantastic website. Great information, and even though I just ate, I’m salivating again…..
    Our family really enjoyed meeting both of you in Sayulita

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