Rio de Janeiro's enviable tropical climate not only means that the locals boast year-round golden glows, but it also means that this most beautiful of cities is a real feast for fruit and vegetable lovers.
You don't need to be a health fanatic to appreciate the fresh tropical fruit that is easily available in the city. A simple stroll through one of the city's colorful fruit and vegetable markets will have mouths watering at the scents and sights on display.
These street markets take place across the city, usually on a weekly basis. They are usually a cost-friendly alternative to supermarket shopping, and they're typically an entertaining way to get your groceries.
Passion fruit — Photo courtesy of Vic Lic
Hundreds of farmers and other vendors set up their stalls on roads that are closed to allow the markets to take place. They set out their wares in tempting displays that can't fail to catch the eye.
As competition is fierce among sellers, they also loudly advertise their prices and the tastiness of their produce. Most will even offer a sample to passersby in order to try to tempt them into a sale. Don't be shy of asking to try something if you have never seen it before: many fruits and vegetables on offer at the market are native to Brazil, and often there is no English language translation.
While some fruits are available year-round - mango, papaya and pineapple - others are seasonal. So what is on offer will depend on the time of year you visit. When fruits are in season, it is common to see them literally covering the sidewalks, having fallen from the fruit-laden trees overhead. And while these windfalls are only rarely edible, it makes sense to look for them at the markets as you can be sure you will be getting fresh, in-season produce. Prices tend to be cheapest when these fruits are in abundance.
Should you catch them in season, try caqui ("Sharon fruit"), carambola ("star fruit") and jabuticaba (a vitamin-rich deep purple berry). Also keep an eye out for the wonderful abacate ("avocados") - which are absolutely enormous - and the similarly gigantic maracuja ("passion fruit").
Try the produce in salads, by themselves or whizzed up into a juice. However you enjoy them, these fruits provide a as much a taste of Rio as wandering along Copacabana beach in your skimpy swimwear.
Fruit markets are held across the city on allocated days. Some to watch out for are those held in Ipanema at Praca General Osorio on Tuesdays, in Gloria on Sunday mornings and close to Rua Riachuelo, Lapa, on Saturdays.