This is a little story of our visit to the farm and hotel in northern Spain: Posada del Valle in Arriondas, Spain, near Picos de Europa.
On the14th of November 2013, our first day of visit,we make a tour on the farm. It is a cold crispy frosty automn morning. Special of this farm is that a Hostel with a restaurant is combined with the farm.
This farm has meadow mowers that are alive! Sheep stay and graze parts of the hills. After some time they are brought to the next field. Some horses will follow and after that even the chickens will be part of the rotation. The sheep give the farm wool and meat. In the restaurant the lamb is prepared for the quests. Also the eggs are served.
Because of the good use of the fields many wild plants and flowers are growing back in the fields. This brings back also insects and butterflies.
And we as a group of mixed European permacultural, interested in raw and wild and traditional food can pick a nice diversity of wild plants for our salad.
In an enclosed vegetable garden many veggies for the restaurant are grown year round, as the climate here allows year round growth.
The sheep are also herded on a long hill full of apple trees. many traditional cider appels are grown. The farm brings the apples to a local juicer and the apple cider juice is served (instead of orange juice) in the restaurant.
Then a sudden wind blows, autumn leaves fly in the sky. To our surprise this wind is very warm, it feels like a late summer evening. And again, a strong blow. Trees are bending. We are told this is called “the chestnut wind”, as this wind comes often in autumn and makes the chestnuts fall out of the trees. And indeed many chestnuts fall on the path, and we start collecting them. The wind is warm coming right over the Atlantic ocean from Africa. The wind brings warm soft rain.
We bring the chestnuts inside to make some delicious meals with them:
1) breakfast: take a chestnut, peel the chestnut also the second skin and take small bits. Chew very well and enjoy the sweet taste.
2) store: take some chestnuts, peel the first skin. let soak for a night. peel the second skin and dry in a dehydrator less than 40 degrees Celsius. When dry grind to a powder to stock.
3) raw chestnut salad; slice the soaked and peeled chestnuts very fine and mix with other veggies.
4) traditional recipe of cooked chestnut with kale;
Chestnut festival Next day we walk down the mountain (hill says our Spanish team) to the chestnut festival in the region town of Arriondas. We pass by many stone enclosed gardens, full with the large traditional kale plants we used in the chestnut recipe. Along the road we find many different wild edible plants like fennel, malva, milk thistle, chickweed, purple nettle and others.
In the chestnut festival we find an incredible amount of different chestnuts. Large, small, all noted with different names. These are local varieties, maybe not even botanically different, but for sure different for the local experts. One of the names is ‘Marina’. Sounds so nice. Many different cakes made with chestnuts are sold and also freshly pressed “raw” apple cider.
Our Spanish host tells me he is going to plant chestnut trees soon. There is a problem with a new type of disease in the area. He says his new trees are inoculated with special fungis that withstand the disease.
written by Rascha Wisse, december 2013, Spain