Vega Central de Santiago has been an integral part of the Santiago community since 1895 with the construction of warehouses on the present site. Actually, this area has been a hub of buying and selling of agricultural products since the beginning of the colonial era.
Vega is best known for fruits and veggies. Trucks arrive daily from the central valley, the fertile area that surrounds Santiago, bringing loads of onions, peppers, lettuce, pumpkin, potatoes, avocados, carrots and the list goes on. When you enter the warehouses, smells of basil, onion, pepper fill the market air.
If you are buying in small quantities (less than a kilo), the vendors will shoo you away. Kroger, this isn’t. The best way to shop in bulk is to bring several friends, buy the larger quantities and split up the bounty later.
The prices are 3X’s lower than what you find at the super market. The freshness is 10X’s better. Even if you over-buy (which I always do), I can keep the items in the fridge for a longer period of time without spoilage.
Once the produce is taken off the trucks and delivered to the vendors, he will arrange the product in the most pleasing way to attract the individual shoppers or the buyers for local restaurants.
The market sells other products, such as fish, poultry, and beef. Chilean beef is tough because the cows graze on the hills since Chile is a mountains country. So, Chile imports much of their beef from Argentina and US. Buying beef is expensive; so, most of the meat eaten in Chile is chicken or pork. Lots and lots of chicken. Surprisingly, fish and seafood are not eaten much in Chile. Because Santiago is located inland. Before mass transport, the seafood had to be brought by cart. Therefore, traditionally, Chileans did not and still don’t eat much seafood even though, now, fresh seafood comes into Santiago daily. Sushi is becoming popular in Santiago. I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve asked some friends where to get the best before I jump in.
Go early, especially on the week-end, try to arrive before 10:00. The market opens at 6 a.m and closes around 4:00 p.m. The best time to go is during the week. But, the most fun time is the week-end because the crowds make the market jump with activity. Even if you don’t buy a single onion or pepper, GO. It’s better than a circus.