Lecrin Valley: It’s Harvest Festival gone nuts!

In October and November the Lecrin Valley is a hive of activity, as the locals harvest and shell the almonds, gather fruit and tidy up their orchards. There’s that lovely smell of bonfires now that the fire ban has been lifted until next year.

This area has a great climate for fruit and veg.  Most of the locals grow a selection of their own vegetables in their courtyards, on their rooftops or in little pockets of their orchards.

For a pretty small area, the Lecrin Valley has quite a varied climate – subtropical to the south of the area and colder in the higher mountain areas, where you’ll find cherries instead of oranges and lemons.

The temperature is not as hot as Granada, but hot enough; mild in the winter; not as damp as the coast, but with a decent amount of rain and water fed from the mountains via the acequias.

Hidden amongst the obvious oranges, lemons, olives and almonds at this time of year, you’ll find orchards or gardens bursting with avocados, apricots, quinces (membrillos), pomegranates (granadas), apples, nisperos, tangerines and grapefruit. Many of the local residents have a grapevine or two over their roof terrace or balcony and the roadsides are littered with cactus fruit…just don’t try to pick them without protection. You often can’t see the fine prickles, but you’ll definitely feel them!

Really if you go on a decent walk in the campo with a basket, you can just forage enough produce to keep you going for a very long time!

You’ll have plenty to keep you going throughout the autumn and the oranges, lemons, grapefruit and some avocados can pretty much last you through the entire winter if you’re lucky.

Nearer to Christmas you’ll find persimmons aka caquis, kakis or Sharon fruit. Yes they have lots of names – they’re a very confused fruit, which is probably why they’re a bit later than other fruit and don’t really know whether they’re ripe or not. Commercial growers have given up on them – they’re just too temperamental. Now they’re just in gardens – and mainly splattered on the ground! But they make great pies (treat them like pumpkin) and you can cut off the tops and freeze them to make a sticky caqui sorbet!

To learn more about Spanish gardening and fruit take a look at : http://thespanishgardener.blogspot.co.uk also http://www.foodsfromspain.com is great if you want to find out what things are.

Altogether Almonds: it’s harvest time in the Lecrin Valley

How often when we eat almonds do we stop and think how they got to our table? Living here in the Lecrin Valley at this time of year it is a question that can easily be answered, as during the months of September and October the normal peace and tranquillity of the valleys and villages of Lecrin is broken by the sound of the small agricultural machines harvesting almonds.

Originally, almond trees came from Central Asia and were traditionally grown in non-irrigated areas of the Middle East and Mediterranean countries from ancient times until today. During the 18th century Spanish missionaries introduced the almonds to California, which is now the leading supplier worldwide, with Spain being in 2nd place.

The almond tree has an average life span of 20 to 25 years but does not bear fruit during the first 3 to 4. Additionally, almond trees are alternate bearing, so that a lighter crop the next often follows a large crop one year. The almonds are mainly shaken from the trees manually, although this can be done mechanically. They are encased in a tough leathery hull that has to be cracked open to expose the inner protective hard shell. It is during this first stage that the machines are used. The shells are then spread out in the sun for one or two days in order for them to dry until the kernels rattle inside. They are then bagged and stored for up to 6 months in a cool dry and well-ventilated area, which ensures lower moisture content and higher oil content.

But not only does the Lecrin Valley resound with the sound of the machines, but also the chitter chatter of families. It is not unusual for younger members of the family to return to the villages from the cities during harvest periods in order to help out with the labour intensive work. Parents, children and grandchildren are seen altogether gathered around the mountains of almonds, husks and drying shells as they prepare to get them into the sacks ready for market.

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When thinking of almonds don’t just think of them as nuts as there are several different uses for them. Used in cereals and ice cream, they are also used for almond milk, which is a low fat non-dairy alternative for consumers who prefer to avoid dairy products. In addition to being a good source of protein, they are also a good source of Vitamin E, dietary fibre and monounsaturated fat, which is associated with the decreased risk of heart disease.

Additionally, they are used in beauty products. Almond oil helps to keep hair silky soft and is thought to keep greying hairs at bay. It is also used to keep skin smooth and supple and help with premature ageing. There is also growing evidence that almonds help with IQ and memory loss. You can blend them into a smoothie or milk shake to make a delicious drink. For the lovers of creative cooking there are some seriously mouth-watering recipes using almonds as many gourmet chefs are introducing them to their dishes. The least you can do after all the hard work involved in harvesting is to put them to the test.

Text by Elaine Dee Crawshaw

Photos by Lyn Baker

Additional photos sourced from Wikipedia, Guardian.co.uk and other local sources.

Best outdoor eating & drinking with views

The Lecrin Valley is such a gorgeous place to sit out and admire the views and surroundings of this wonderful part of Spain. Now that the heat of the summer has dissipated a little, it’s the perfect time to lounge around al fresco.

Here are some of the best places to kick back with a cold beer or a tinto de verano and enjoy the sunshine and scenery.

  • Los Naranjos del Valle – Melegis – lovely at lunchtime overlooking the lake and evening for a breezy al fresco dinner. Children’s playground too to keep the little ones occupied.
  • El Rincon / Alqueria de Los Lentos – Niguelas – at the foot of the sierra just outside of Niguelas, it’s the perfect garden setting to sit with a drink and appreciate the local scenery. Great for sundowners and views of the mountains and over to Conchar.
  • LA CONCA ARTS CLUB, between Chite and Melegis – beautiful rustic setting perched just above the bright blue water of beautiful Beznar reservoir. Often has live music in a bohemian setting.
  • Thai Elephant Restaurant – Restabal – gorgeous tranquil and picturesque garden setting with views to the north across Restabal.  Serves lovely Thai food and often with live music or special evening events. The resident cat and the peacocks will keep the kids amused!
  • Rincón De Miguel (Miguel’s) – Niguelas – a great little local bar, perched on the terrace at the base of pretty Niguelas village. Perfect for afternoons and evening drinks as it gets the late sun, with views across to the windmills. Cheap drinks and Miguel’s generous tapas.
  • Café Bar Venecia – Pinos del Valle. Perched above the main street, this cute bar that does great tapas, drinks and basic meals has a lovely terrace overlooking the valley towards Granada.
  • Hacienda Señorío de Nevada – Conchar – an upmarket hotel and vineyard setting… enjoy drinks overlooking the pool with amazing scenery all around. NB> Every Friday night throughout July an August there’s drinks, BBQ and live music by the pool.
  • La Tasca – Niguelas – lovely pizza restaurant and bar with indoor/outdoor terrace looking out up to the sierra and over the barranco. www.la-tasca.com 

Click on the EATERIES page for more info on all these places.

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Flamenco in the Lecrin Valley!

Restabal’s Fiesta de Santa Ana falls on the last weekend of July and for a number of years the fiesta has featured its own “Festival de Flamenco” on the Saturday night. This year’s VIII Festival de Flamenco de el Valle is sure to be another spectacular show.

25 July 2015, 22.30 (10.30PM), Plaza del Antiguo Cabildo.

Held in the Plaza del Antiguo Cabildo in the heart of Restabal, it’s a small venue so you get right up close to the performers, who include two of the region’s best known guitarists, Ramon del Paso and Antonio de la Luz; first class singers, Jose “El Balao”, Ivan Centenillo, Judith Urbano, Ana Mochon and Rudi de la Vega and the gorgeous dancer, Conchi Maya (a former international flamenco dancer who teaches at the Carmen de las Vegas flamenco school in Granada http://www.carmencuevas.com).

Definitely not to be missed!

A Place in the Sun, Lecrin now Weds, 21 Jan

The scheduled time for A Place in the Sun: Winter Sun featuring the Lecrin Valley has been changed. It will now air on Wednesday 21st Jan 2015, 14:10 (GMT), Channel 4. Fingers crossed for no more changes!

A Place in the Sun’s Lecrin Valley Episode Airs 23 Jan!

The new series of A Place in the Sun: Winter Sun is now on Channel 4 and the episode featuring the Lecrin Valley/Granada will air on Friday, January 23rd at 14.10 (GMT), 15.10 in Spain (if you’re lucky enough to still get Channel 4)!

So if you want to find out more about the Lecrin Valley and what’s on offer in the region, don’t miss the lovely Laura and her team’s search for properties in the the villages around the area and their interviews with existing expat residents.

Hoping John and Pauline found what they were looking for!

To see the properties featured in the programme and many more great houses, apartments, land and cortijos waiting to be discovered by new owners, head to www.athomeinandalusia.com.

A Place in the Sun comes to the Lecrin Valley

It’s been a very exciting week in the Lecrin Valley, with the arrival of Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun. The crew has been filming in the area for a new episode featuring a British couple who are thinking about buying in the Granada Province.

A few weeks ago we got a very exciting call from the researchers, asking if we could help the crew look for houses in the Lecrin Valley and suggest existing local expat residents to interview for the show. No problema!

Danielle Gouwens at At Home in Andalusia quickly got to work shortlisting suitable houses, while we set up interviews with a few of the local expats, including Louise Spink from Restabal’s Vinas de Vera,  Cathy King from La Tasca Restaurant in Niguelas and the lovely Molly Sears, author of the Piccavey blog who lives in Granada.

Laura HamiltonThe team, headed by popular presenter Laura Hamilton, visited 5 houses in total, of which three were in the valley – in Chite, Albunuelas and Pinos.

Now we just have to wait for the show to air to find out if the couple, Pauline and John, decide to buy in Granada, but everyone’s had a great time in the process!

We’re hoping that the show, which will probably broadcast in January, will encourage more people to visit or buy a home in our lovely corner of the world, as well as bring welcome business to the local bars, restaurants, cafes and activities.

Next week the show will be filming in Motril, so the Costa Tropical will also get a look-in!

A Place in the Sun

Channel 4 A Place in the Sun

At Home in Andalusia

https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Tasca

Stormy weather

There have been some amazing storms over the last couple of days in Granada and the Lecrin Valley. Here are some great stormy pics of the bizarre cloud formations and weird light from Louise Spink in Restabal…

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Full of Fruity Goodness: Produce of the Lecrin Valley

The Lecrin Valley is a wonderful place, rich in history and primarily an area devoted to fruit. All over the place you’ll find old and existing mills, factories for frutos secos (nuts) and of course citrus orchards and olive groves as far as the eye can see.

Sadly over recent times with the recession and reduction in the price of oranges, the Lecrin Valley has taken a huge hit as far as its primary product is concerned. Almost all the locals sell to the local cooperative and are currently getting extremely low rates for their oranges, so many of them have just given up, because it’s not even worth them getting in the seasonal workers to help with the harvest.

Consequently you see orchards full of unpicked oranges and lemons just rotting on the ground. But the locals are still very proud of their orange tradition and every year at the end of March/beginning of April there’s a special festival devoted to the local citrus heritage – Feria de los Citricos – which this year runs from 23 – 30 March. This takes place in Melegis, the heart of Orange country and where the cooperative is located.

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Aside from the oranges and lemons, almonds and olives, there’s a huge variety of other sorts of fruits: Pomegranates, custard apples, figs, nisperos, caquis (persimmon or “Sharon” fruit), avocadoes, grapefruit, cactus fruit and apparently even some mangoes.

Lots of these fruit trees are roadside, so you don’t have to pay for them anyway. You simply gather what you need on your daily walk! This definitely keeps a lot of the locals going. Most of the locals grown their own vegetables in their own “huertos” or “huertas” (huertas can be translated as orchards or vegetable gardens or even “allotment”). You can even find a lavender plantation in Restabal at Casa Lavanda.

The climate is pretty mild with the exception of a couple of cold months in January and February, and although the valley is surrounded by snow-capped hills and mountains, it rarely gets frost or snow itself. So the locals have a huge repertoire in fruit and veg in their gardens, huertos and even just on balconies – all kinds of peppers and chillis, root veg, tomatoes, judías (runner beans) and all sorts of other leafy veggies. They also almost all have a grape vine or two over a roof terrace or balcony. You could pretty much be self-sufficient and survive without spending a centimo on fruit and veg, just by foraging!

As well as fruit, there are also many herbs to be found lining roadsides and up in the hills on the way up to the neighbouring Alpujarras, including wild mint, basil, loads of rucola (rocket), rosemary and thyme. And the Alpujarras is also famous for its goats cheese and hams.

Some of the best ham in Spain comes from up in Trevelez. Trevélez (the second highest muncipality in Spain) is famous for the quality of its air-cured hams, a speciality throughout the Alpujarras, but particularly associated with the village, because the cold climate due to its altitude makes ideal conditions for storing them.

Honey is also a big product of the area – there is some in Lecrin, but mainly up in the hills of the Alpujarras and the Sierra Nevada. There’s even a honey museum in Lanjaron.

Local residents are well versed in making their own jams, marmelades, preserves etc and sun-drying peppers and tomaties and there are a few great companies sprouting up, like Almond & Olive who are exporting the Lecrin Valley’s fabulous fayre abroad, as well as the not for profit organisation Eco Valle that brings together all the local eco-friendly producers in the area.

To see some of the local producers in action you can either hang out around the orchards in harvest time, or some of the producers and mills run tours – like the Hacienda Senorio de Nevada vineyard near Conchar and Olive Oil Tours in Niguelas and La Flor De Las Alpujarras in Orgiva, an organic olive oil cooperative. Several local businesses, such as Casa Amelia and rural hotels also offer cooking classes and catering with local produce.

Of course if you really want to see what’s on offer, just go to the local markets – the best being in Niguelas, Padul, Durcal, Lanjaron and Orgiva.Whatever your tastes you won’t go hungry in the Lecrin Valley. See what you can find on a walk around the area. You’re sure to come back with a basket full of goodies, perfect for juicing, salads, preserves and garnishes and if you don’t find what you need the little vans that travel around the villages on a daily basis are sure to have it!

Buen provecho!

LECRIN VALLEY IS…

In case you don’t know the Lecrin Valley, here you go… this is what the LECRIN VALLEY is all about!

Lemons and Limes – they’re everywhere. They’re not as obvious as their brighter cousins, the oranges, but they’re in most orchards and by roadsides.  Your gin & tonic will never be without this very important garnish!
Easygoing and Everything you need for a great holiday or a rural retreat.  Close enough to the coast and to Granada city to feel connected and be able to take in the sights and do some shopping if you like, but far away from the hustle and bustle of city life to feel like you’re away from it all.
Creativity – there’s so much going on here if you take the time to look. Local artisans make jewellery, ceramics and rugs; there are artists and writers, photographers, musicians, actors and much much more.
Riding and Rambling!  The area is hugely popular with on and off-road cyclists, horseriders, walkers and twitchers too.
Inspiring – when you spend time here you can’t help but be inspired by the beauty of the landscape and the easy pace of life.
Naranjas! This is one of biggest orange producing areas of Spain. They’re all over the place, pretty much all year round. Also Nisperos (date plums) – one of the local fruits, this little orange plum-like fruit is sort of half date half, plum in taste. The wasps and bees love them too!

Views – incredible views up to the mountains and down through the valley. Every direction you look there’s a staggering view – either of the Beznar dam to the south, the Sierra Nevada to the North, The Alpujarras and windmills to the East and West.
Almendras y Aceitunas (Almonds and Olives).  The valley is full of blossom at least twice a year (April and November) for the oranges and lemons and in January the Almond blossom arrives. The olive harvest is in the winter. And not forgetting Alpujarra – The Lecrin Valley is on the doorstep of this amazing area of beautiful landscape and pretty mountain villiages.
Lavanda (lavender in Restabal). Not really known for its Lavender, the new lavender farm in Restabal (Casa Lavanda) hopes to make Lavender as much a part of the valley as oranges and almonds.
Lovely Villages and Lush Landscape – you can’t beat the greenery of the Lecrin Valley – so different to most of Andalucia – and the pretty white villages are some of the loveliest in Spain.
Embalsa de Beznar (the Beznar reservoir and dam). The main landmark of the valley. The Beznar reservoir and dam is an amazing strip of bright turquoise water surrounded by orchards and pine forest. It feeds off the springs and snow melt of the Sierra Nevada. Great for fishing and non-motorised watersports (but not swimming), the lake really is not used enough.
YES please! See you soon.