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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

Olives – Full of Fat and Flavour

Mi Pueblo: Restabal

This is the first in a series of mini articles from local residents to give you a picture of what each village is like…

Mi Pueblo – Restabal, by Danielle Gouwens

Let’s start with some facts: Restabal is a smallish village in the municipality of El Valle, together with Saleres and Melegís. It’s set in the heart of the ´Lecrin Valley´, which means the “Valley of Happiness”. They say the Valley was given its name by the Moors and I reckon it’s one of the most appropriately named areas of Spain!

Restabal has a population of 517 inhabitants (last count!) and is situated at an altitude of 541.1 meters above sea level. The inhabitants of Restabal are called Restabeños and even have their own dialect.

The village has three fiestas: San Cristóbal y Nuestra Señora del Rosario in December; a 3-day celebration in honor of Santa Ana around the 26th of July and on the 13th of May the Romeria de la Virgen de Fátima, with a procession the following Sunday.

We also have three monuments and the remains of a Moorish castle, although if you’re thinking of paying it a visit, be warned, there’s not much left!!!

The Beauty of Restabal

Every time I drive back from Melegis towards Restabal I’m always filled with a mixture of happiness and pride, because it’s such a lovely setting with the pine forest in the background and the white-washed houses popping in the sun surrounded by orange groves and views down to the embalse de Beznar.

Daily life

Daily life is very easy going. In the morning you greet the farmers on their way to the campo to tend to their vegetables and orchards, donkeys pass in the streets as if the industrial revolution never happened around here, and there is always a friendly welcome in the local supermarket – actually there are three of them!

A variety of people visit our village, both Spanish and international and having my office in Restabal I am often in the privileged position of welcoming people who have never been to this area before. Almost without exception, people fall in love with the area and our little pueblo.

Things to do

Apart from long walks in stunning scenery, which my personal favorite, it’s also great for cycling around here with fantastic routes all over the valley.  At the weekends particularly you see a great many cyclists making their way through the village with the odd one or two stopping en route for a quick drink on the roadside at Bar Andrea.

The family that runs the local restaurant, Meson La Despensa and its bar, Bar Jovi (above the restaurant) also organize horse riding in the hills behind the village. They even organize paintballing! Not the most traditional of village pursuits, but fun all the same.

Apart from the aforementioned restaurant, we also have a fabulous Thai restaurant (Thai Elephant) with probably the best views of the village and this year, Camping El Valle opened its doors for camping holidays and also for day recreation, offering a large public swimming pool and a bar for both holiday makers and locals. It’s owned by Dutch couple, Femke and Erik who have a beautiful Lavender Farm on the outskirts of the village and Erik plays in a local Rhythm and Blues band!

The sports ground/campo deportivo at the top of the village often stages parties and events like Flamenco evenings, but like most things in Spain, they don’t usually start until around 11o/c at night, so make sure you have a siesta first!

As all the Lecrin Valley residents know and appreciate, Granada is pretty much on our doorstep and the beaches of the Costa Tropical are only half an hour the other way, so we’re in an amazing position of both rural life and closeness to the city and coast.

Restabal is a beautiful village with a warm heart and very friendly people, breathtaking views and surrounding scenery.  Ultimately I wouldn’t be anywhere else. It’s a place I feel very much at home and although we´ll always be the “guiri” (a colloquial Spanish name used in Spain applied to foreigners), in the good sense of the word, the more time you spend here, the more you end up feeling like a true Restabeño!

Danielle runs real estate agency, At Home in Andalusia (www.athomeinandalusia.com). 

Additional pics taken from El Valle Ayuntamiento website: http://www.elvalle.es and http://www.adurcal.com