If you live in Seville, and you’re interested in organic food, you’ve probably visited the monthly market in the Alameda. Fellow Seville-based blogger Mary posted about it recently here. This takes place on the second Saturday of the month and has a number of stalls selling locally-grown fruit and vegetables, olive oil, wine, honey and other products.
For those of us who live up in the Aljarafe, the area to the west of the city, and don’t fancy the schlep into town, parking hassles, and lugging heavy shopping bags full of chemical-free goodies around, there’s another option – the organic market which takes place in Gines. It’s organised by a group called La Reguerta Ecologica which promotes organic and ethical living. How fitting that the Aljarafe, being higher than the city and therefore slightly cooler in summer, is where the Moors had their kitchen gardens all those centuries ago. Those North Africans knew their stuff when it came to agriculture, as with so many other aspects of life.
Until now, this market has only been held periodically, every several months since June 2012, but the good news is that now it’s going to be a regular event – on the third Saturday of every month, starting last weekend. The market takes place in a large, shady park in Gines, with a good playground, cafe and an area with a small river, bridges and a lake inhabited by water fowl. Children love feeding the ducks and geese; mine spotted some frogspawn on Saturday. And you can park right outside: gets the family vote.
We’ve visited the market several times, in the heat of summer and the chill of winter. Last Saturday the number of stalls was less than half the usual (about 30), since part of the area they occupy was a mud bath thanks to recent downpours. A chilly wind and spitting rain didn’t deter the more determined shoppers, which was impressive considering how much Spanish people – especially women – hate being rained on. We only lasted about an hour (me shopping, the kids playing) before we became uncomfortably cold, and hightailed it back home – whereupon the sun came out. Of course.
As with any market, the experience of buying direct from the producer is illuminating and enjoyable. These producers and farmers nearly all come from Seville province (or next-door Huelva), and many from the Aljarafe itself, so you’re buying locally. They love telling you about their produce, as you sample it - how it is made, and all the different varieties. If you’re a foodie, I can’t think of many better ways to spend a Saturday morning, than browsing stalls of locally-made organic goodies produced by small (mostly) family companies, and tasting their wares – organic goat’s cheese, bread dipped in olive oil, wine made in the nearby hills.
So what did we buy? I already had a few favourites – Monte Robledo cheese; Colonias de Galeon wine; and Al Andalusi bread.
Monte Robledo is goat’s cheese made in the Sierra de Aracena, as mentioned in a recent blog post. It’s rolled in herbs or paprika. They do farm visits where you can make your own cheese; this is now on my list of family days out for this year.
Colonias de Galeon is a bodega in Cazalla de la Sierra, in the Sierra Norte. I chatted to Elena, who runs it with her husband, about their young wine (with the purple top). I’m not normally a red wine drinker – don’t like the tannins, they give me a headache – but this is a fresh young tinto (2013) made from a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah, has a light, fruity, red-berry taste. Last November the winery held free tastings of the new bottling in Seville, so keep an eye out this autumn.
She also produces a special limited-edition run of 2000 bottles, under the label FROM SVQ (the code for Seville airport): the latest is a pinot noir from the 2010 harvest, bottled as A300-M, in honour of the new military aircraft made just outside the city.
La Andalusi is a well-established bakery in the nearby town of Sanlucar La Mayor. (Interesting foodie fact: Ferran Adria’s only outpost of La Bulli was located there. I spent a memorable evening working my way though the 24-course tasting menu – on assignment, pre-crisis.) You may have seen their distinctive Mezquita arches logo. They make all manner of delicious organic loaves in their wood-fired oven – at this latest market, there were even chocolate cupcakes, the craze which has just reached Seville. For coeliacs, they do spelt bread; the onion and spice loaf is on my list to try.
A new discovery for me was the wonderfully-named De Mi Huerta A Tu Casa - as the name implies, they do home delivery from their base in Almensilla. You can order oranges from their orchards in Palma del Rio (’tis the season), or delicious olive oil, which is a blend of two local Seville province varieties, manzanilla (more often used as an eating olive) and zorzaleña (also known as lechin), along with the more commonly pressed arbequina. The oil has a strong yellow colour, and a full, spicy flavour. Home-made jams on offer included fig, lemon and ginger, and lemon and mint – we opted for the last one.
If you need to have a pitstop, no need to leave the market: there’s a stall with well-priced organic vegetarian tapas, such as chickpea and chard stew, couscous or tofu fillet sandwich, accompanied by home-made lemonade or local wine.
Other stalls have organic fruit and vegetables - what most people come here for - as well as clothes, baby goods such as carriers and cloth nappies, and handicrafts such as bags and jewellery. Have you ever been to a market where they didn’t sell accessories? Local gardening and environmental groups also have stands, so it’s a great place to learn about projects going on in the area which you can get involved with.
Often there are talks on eco-living, sustainable lifestyle, and organic agriculture, but we chickened out early due to the inclement weather, so missed the full programme. Previously we’ve seen live bands (see photo above), which have varied from a bit dodgy to pretty good. Nothing better than buying – and eating – food you know is Very Good For You, and then watching your children rock out to “Shake it!” and “Twist and Shout”.
The produce at the organic market is not cheap, but people don’t come here looking for bargains – they (I) want tasty food that has been grown and made locally, without using chemicals, and which will be coming from field to plate in the shortest possible time.
The organisers’ blog La Reguerta Ecologica has information on permaculture and social currency used in the Aljarafe – like a product/service exchange. Another site, La Cooperactiva features organic agriculture and ecotourism.
The next Aljarafe organic market will be held on Saturday 15 February 2014. The market takes place from 11am-3pm.
Watch a TV report on the market here.