Living in Ecuador has given us a variety and quality of food that we literally couldn’t imagine enjoying back in Canada. The fruit is cheap, fresh and delicious. $1.00 pineapples are huge and extremely sweet. Mangoes are sweet and messy (er, juicy) and cost $0.55 per kg! Grapes, papaya, oranges, limes, and bananas are all amazing.
In Canada, we always (tried to) washed our produce well to try to clean it of pesticides and general dirt. But frequently we would by some fruit and eat it unwashed. And we never got sick.
Of course, pesticides are used here in Ecuador, but there is a bigger concern for foreigners. Because of our delicate constitution, we extranjeros must be careful about uncooked fruits and vegetables. Amoebas and parasites can be given a new home (you) if you aren’t careful about the food you eat.
We had friends living in the Dominican Republic and they used chlorine bleach to soak their food. I’m sure it would do the job, but there is another option.
Before we moved here, we had read about Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) and so we decided to buy 4 bottles to bring with us. 2 oz. cost $16.99 ea (x 4 bottles). The most common brand in Canada and the States is called The Original GSE – see the picture of the white bottle with red cap. Because we didn’t know if we could find it, we stocked up. Those 4 bottles lasted more than one year. Its super concentrated – 10 (or 15) drops into a liter or two of water does the trick.
When it began to run low, we started looking for a replacement here in Cuenca. We didn’t want to switch to chlorine, so we were happy to find a few options. Both the Supermaxi and Coral Hipermercados sell grapefruit seed extract. It is less concentrated, but also significantly less expensive. You’ll find it in the produce sections of both stores. One is called Kilol and the other Star-Bac.
Fresh food needs to be soaked in a disinfectant – for anywhere from 5-15 minutes – depending on the strength of the extract and how strong it is mixed with water.
Like eating? Then you’ll love our guide to Ecuadorian food
UPDATE (February 2, 2013): We still use the GSE from the US – we just order Nutribiotic – GSE Liquid Concentrate online. We’ve found that because it is more concentrated, it lasts much longer and it justifies the higher price. It takes just 10-15 drops instead of a full cap full of the stuff we buy here.
Read more about how to filter your water while traveling.