Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Huerta

In an number of my posts I have mentioned the Huerta or traditional orchard of Bigastro but what is it and what do they grow there?

The Traditional Orchard of Bigastro is located in the heart of the Vega Baja and harks back to the rural tradition of the area. Over centuries it has been the source of wealth for the inhabitants thanks to the culture of the earth, formerly wetlands, and to the development during Islamic period of the system of traditional watering which is still in use today.

These early agriculturists made good use of the waters from the Segura river and set an example to be followed. Their techniques have allowed locals to continue with agricultural activity in the area. Added to the production of vegetables and tubers like potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, marrows, artichokes, onions, cauliflowers, beans, etc., the important production of citrus fruits drives the rural economy today.

The huerta is considered an important historic, cultural, natural and agricultural legacy. It still exerts an important influence on the maintenance of the social and ideological structure of the municipality which is reflected in the enterprising and good natured character of its citizens.

Typical fruits of the huerta include the quince which is used in the local "Dulce de Membrillo" dessert. The growing of date palms goes back to Islamic times of the seventh and eight centuries. This sense of tradition also pervades the growth of citrus varieties which include naranja blanca, sanguina and verna. The "queen of the Huerta" though is the artichoke or "alcasil" as it is sometimes known.

There are other crops though which are important to the local cuisine e.g. "acelga de la huerta", "camarroja amarga", "lisón", "rompete" and "serrajón". These are the Autumn plants that are used in combination with vegetables to provide the special flavours of the area's dishes.

No comments: