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Brazil food: Copacabana farmers' market (Recipe: jilo and onions) {vegan, gluten-free}

The first in an occasional series of posts over the next few weeks about Brazilian food and ingredients we discovered during our visit.


On Thursday mornings in Rio de Janeiro, everyone goes to Copacabana.

Not to the beach, but to the weekly farmers' market that stretches along two blocks of Rua Ronald de Carvalho.

Our group of five cousins strolled the length of the market, sampling the familiar (pineapple) and the unfamiliar (jackfruit). We were fascinated by the cashew nuts still attached to their fruits.

Cashew nuts

Next to the strawberries, we found fruta de conde, which is related to cherimoya, soursop or custard apple. The flesh inside has a creamy, banana-like consistency.

Fruita de conde, related to cherimoya and soursop, creamy on the inside.

Maxixe, a spiny cucumber, is crunchy and refreshing, and according to my friend Peter, very easy to grow.

Maxixe, a spiny cucumber that's crunchy, refreshing and seedless.

Jilo looks like a baby green eggplant, and tastes somewhat like it, too.


We recognized okra, of course...


... and manioc.


And I loved these packaged vegetables, cut right on the spot, all ready to cook. At left are the ubiquitous hearts of palm (you'll read more about that later this week).

My favorite thing? You could use the hand-cranked grinder to create your own spice blends and pastes.

Copacabana spice grinder

Brasilieros love to eat, and the farmers' market was the perfect introduction to many of the foods we tasted during our recent visit.

Jilo and onions 

Jilo and onions

At the pousada, I watched Marcinha make this simple and delicious side dish; I've adapted her recipe slightly. The tart flavor makes a great accompaniment to a rich casserole or grilled meats. Jilo is available at many Latino and Brazilian markets here in the United States. Though it looks a bit like eggplant, it's firm inside, and does not get salted before cooking. Figure on one per person. Serves 6.


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, cut in half, then thinly sliced
6 jilo, stems removed, thinly sliced into rounds
1 clove of garlic, smashed
Kosher salt or sea salt, and fresh black pepper, to taste


Heat the oil in a heavy (cast iron) frying pan or skillet over low heat. When the oil is hot, sprinkle some of the jilo and onions on it. When those begin to brown, add more of the jilo and onions. Stir a bit, and let sit until just starting to brown. Add the remaining jilo and onions, along with the garlic. Keep stirring until all of the vegetables are a bit browned, and the onions are slightly caramelized and very soft. Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Garlic eggplant
Moroccan eggplant salad
Mozambique chicken
Albornia de chayote

Thanks to Ben for his photo of the manioc at the farmers' market.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Wow, this is really impressive... reminds me of Hong Kong markets, but I think even more interesting. Must be huge fun to work with all the new produce.

looks grand. btw, having gone to a *real* market how do you deal with coming home to run of the mill farmers(yeah right!) markets?

oh my this sounds delicious. I'm off to find a Brazilian market. Welcome home.

I love the photos and the recipe. And adding food a bit at a time is a wonderful way to increase complexity. Love that recipe...now to find jilo! Thanks for sharing your trip, Lydia!

those strawberries are amazing! love the photos, this is wonderful. I hope there's more?

Oh how nice, these pictures bring me sweet memories of my childhood in Venezuela, we also have these markets over there and many of the same fruits and vegetables as our neighbour Brazil. My Dad used to wake me up every Saturday morning at 6:00 AM to go with him to the market to get the very best and freshest vegetables, fruits, and also fresh chicken that you can pick while still alive and they'll kill it and cleaned it for you, and the eggs.... oh they where really the best eggs! so many freshly baked goodies also and honey....Thanks so much for sharing these pictures : )

but -- the sign above the strawberries -- what is that word that looks like "toxic"?
and the cashews: I knew about the on-the-outside, but the photo is really worth a thousand words, or more.

Gorgeous photos from the market. Looks like a home cook's paradise!

What a great taste of Brazil! Love seeing all the interesting foods, and never heard of this one so of course I'm wishing I had a bite!

What a wonderful post--thanks for giving your readers a chance to see the market through your eyes! Hope you are enjoying yourself immensely.

By the way, there's a great documentary about American farmer's markets called "To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Pig." Very enjoyable.


Whew! Lydia please keep the pictures coming. Here I see a lot of fruits and veggies that I have no idea of what they are so thanks so much

What a wonderful market! I think the fruita de conde is similar to guayabano which is also a type of soursop.

gorgeous photos!! makes me feel like i'm right there!

Please try the feijoada (slow cooked black beans with pork parts), churrasco (even though here in the States we have "Fogo de Chao"),moqueca (fish stew), leitao a pururuca, bolinho de bacalhau ( it is a fried dough with dry cod fish; Portuguese influence),guarana, pastel, libanese food (kibe, esfiha, charuto de uva, babaganush, kafta,...), arroz com pequi, caipirinha de caju, fruits: acai (probably just the frozen one will be available), sweet passion fruit, jabuticaba, acerola, caja, cupuacu, graviola,pitanga).

If you stop in Sao Paulo, visit the restaurant of Alex Atala ("is the only restaurant in Latin America that made Restaurant magazine’s Top 50 list this year, ranking No. 40 among the world’s best eateries".

Have a great trip !

Some odd shaped food out that way. All looks interesting though.

Paul, I admit that new foods turn me on. And the best thing about this market was that everyone offered samples of their food -- we could have made a meal with all the fruit and vegetables we tasted.

Milton, our farmers markets are pretty terrific, too!

Satonahat, Candy: I think there are several good markets in the Boston area. I'd be happy to go exploring with you.

Dawn, oh yes, there's more!

Winny, thanks for sharing that wonderful memory. Because this market was on Thursday, a school day, we didn't see children there. But there seems to be a market in a different neighborhood every day of the week, and I'll bet at the weekend markets, there are children enjoying the morning with their dads, just as you did.

Susan, I don't know, but the strawberries were anything but toxic -- they were drip-down-your-chin delicious!

Maris, Kalyn, Deena, Kim, Kiss My Spatula, Peabody: The market was a wonderful introduction to so many new fruits and vegetables. I was happy to discover that many of these are available in the US at Brazilian or Latino markets, too.

Veron, right you are!

Eliane, I wish I'd had your list before we went, but now that we're back, I can see that we did pretty well at tasting our way around Brazilian cuisine. We were able to see the beginning of the bloom season for the jabuticaba trees, and visited a local woman who made jabuticaba wine. We also had lots of acai, guarana, pitanga, cupuacu. And caipirinhas, of course. Not too much fish, though, as we spent most of our time inland after just a few days in Rio.

Cool pic of the cashew. Once at work when I was eating cashews - a co-worker ( originally from Cape Verde) told me he liked "cashew juice" of course I was puzzled. He explained the whole thing about the fruit. Told me to look in the store for it. Sure enough - there it was "cashew nectar" in a can. Who knew. Very cool to see an actual picture of this "fruit" and "seed".

Wow, what an adventure!
Please tell me you are bringing home one of those cranks!

What a great post! I can't travel right now, but I feel like I am taking to that magical place with your pictures. Thanks for sharing!

Loving the photos, Lydia -- thanks for sharing them and the recipes along with your experiences!

Carol, we were served cashew juice for breakfast almost every morning at the pousada. I must tell you it was not my favorite, but it was new and different!

Natashya, I wish I had brought one home, except that it was cast iron and probably weighed a ton! It was fun to see that at the market, though.

Ben, this market reminded me very much of the markets in Mexico, which we love to visit whenever we are there.

Genie, more photos to come....

What a fun farmer's market - love the packages of chopped vegetables!

When i saw the picture where you said cashewnuts still attached to the fruit i thought you were joking! Turns out that is how cashew grow, how cool is that!

I always love traveling through different markets. The colors and aromas are amazing. And, what fun to grind your own spices!

Hum, I looove jabuticaba ! Thanks for sharing a little bit of Brazil ! Other than food, how did you like it ?

Cate, those chopped vegetables looked so fresh that I wanted to bring some home. Some packages were cut into small dice, others into a more rough chop. I wish I could find that at my farmers' market.

Anna, no kidding, I was so excited to see those cashews.

TW, we were tempted to make our own spice blend, but it was early in our trip and I worried that the freshness wouldn't hold. Oh, yes, and there was the tiny issue of getting the spices back through customs; we would have had to find a sealer to enclose the bags. Ah, well.

Eliane, I fell in love with jabuticaba on this trip. Other than the food, our visit was spectacular, but it's the food you'll be reading about on The Perfect Pantry. Hopefully it will give you a sense of how much we enjoyed our visit.

Picking my jaw up off of the floor---did you see the size, color & texture of those gorgeous okra? How come the okra in our farmers' markets don't look like that?!

wow what a wonderful market! Not only the colours are glorious - I can imagine the smell! ohh what scentsations! It makes me miss Malaysia. The fruit that the man was holding looks like cempedak - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cempedak and jackfruit.
Did you get to try the fresh cashews?
We call the custard apple buah nona or serikaya in Malaysia http://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buah_Nona.
So many similarities between the vegetables and fruits that can be found in Malaysia and South East Asia and Brazil, and the spicing thrown in too!
I bet all your sensations had a real feast, Lydia!

Love seeing these photos of the market there. It's always so interesting to me how the different parts of Brazil are the same, yet so, well, different. Graviola isn't common here and there are so many other fruits of the north that I've heard of, but have never seen or eaten. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I had an awesome time in Minas. My trip to Ouro Preto was one of the best of my time here. I'm loving your posts about Brazilian cuisine.

These photos are fabulous, Lydia. I feel like I just took a mini tropical vacation without having to arrange a sheep and donkey sitter. What a great time you must have had! : )

For those puzzled with the "toxic" plaque stuck in those strawberries, it says: "Strawberries without 'agrotoxics'", which is a Portuguese term for chemicals used in agriculture, mainly pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. Basically it's saying that the strawberries are organic.

the sign above the strawberry means: strawberrys without agrotoxics.
Wonderdul capture of brazilian's fruits. Congratulations!

Ultranol, William: thanks so much for the translation and explanation. We loved the markets in Rio.

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