Living off the land; moving with the seasons: The Mallorquin Huerta
I was recently lucky enough to be invited to a stunning little Huerta (kitchen garden) clinging to the terraced slopes of the Mallorquin coastline. Between the dry stone walls of terraces made long ago by arab occupiers in their magnificent process of taming the otherwise unreachable landscape, this little vegetable garden lay nestled in perfect order, with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. From an initial sweep of green emerged vegetables the colour of which you would be hard-pressed to find in even the best quality supermarket.
Keen to show me the fruits of his labour, the farm manager went about collecting samples of his home-grown produce. As he created a pile of the best of the harvest, the collection before me grew in both voluptuous size and magnificent colour. From super green cucumbers and a richly purple aubergine, to wonderfully fragrant basil, bright yellow peppers and startlingly intense red tomatoes, this gathering of produce was worthy of a museum piece, rather than a humble feast.
And yet feast we did, sampling flavours the likes of which I have never had the pleasure to enjoy before. The tomatoes were so sweet, and so complex in their flavour contrasts, that the sweet sticky small tomatoes might have been an altogether different fruit from the large meaty giant tomatoes which I could have feasted on forever.
But behind the intensity of the flavour and the quality of the produce was the rationale which went with it. These vegetables were grown in alignment with the seasons. They tasted so good because they emerged from land grown traditionally, with no additives, at the time of the year when they are meant to be harvested. No tomato, artificially grown under a lamp light in the winter could ever have tasted this good. And what struck me most of all was the pride glowing from within the farm manager. Because he had presented the very best product from his intensely laboured land – the fruit of his work, with a little help from the perfect timing of mother nature’s seasons.
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