A few weekends ago we had a full-on feast of foodieness here in Seville: BioCultura fair (26-28 February), at FIBES Conference Centre, which was full of eco-innovation as well as lots of fabulous fresh organic goodies; plus the Callejeando Food Fest, on the Muelle de Nueva York, the riverside walkway near the Aquarium, with 11 food trucks, live music and a festival vibe.
We made two visits to BioCultura, a large-scale event (by Seville standards) which also takes place in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Bilbao every year; this was its inaugural edition here. Previous eco-events held in Seville were smaller and more Andalucia-focused, although still well-attended.
Here are some eco-statistics about Andalucia and Spain:
- Spain is the top producer of organic goods in Europe
- 50% of Spain’s organic produce comes from Andalucia (Huelva is the top province by hectares)
- Last year organic production by hectare in Andalucia rose by 12%.
- More than 80% of this produce is exported
- Some of the food is processed abroad and then imported back into Spain
- Average spend on organic produce in Europe is 200 euros per capita; in Spain, however, it is just 24 euros per capita (Andalucia is the lowest)
The conclusion is that Spain grows and produces lots of healthy organic goodies, but isn’t so interested in eating or using them, so instead they go to the UK, France and Germany. BioCultura was keen to explain to people the benefits of eating food grown naturally without chemicals. The main barriers are lack of awareness of health benefits of organic products, but also an economic barrier: this type of produce is still considerably more expensive.
Like many such events, Biocultura offered a programme of (free) children’s activities, in this case bread-making, face-painting, art and handicrafts, and plant-growing, all organised by MamaTerra. We made the most of these, with Lola only missing out on the panaderia because it was sadly cancelled: one panadero was poorly, and his compañero was, well, busy baking the bread to sell in their shop, and at the fair. Fair enough.
As always at these events, many stands had new and exciting products to discover. These were some of my favourites:
VitaCoco Coconut Oil – a beauty and cooking product in one. As it goes solid under 24 degrees, you can use it as a cream (oh, that heavenly smell – holidays and cake) on your face and hair; when heated for cooking, it turns into oil without releasing toxins like other oils, plus its nutritional values (antibacterial, metabolic) aren’t lost as with other oils. I’m told it works beautifully in smoothies – my planning is a tropical treat of banana, mango, pineapple and coconut. In addition, apparently coconut oil has been proved to be helpful to Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Flaska – a glass water bottle programmed with vibrations to restructure water. Yes, no machine or filter; you simply pour water into the bottle and the glass restores the water’s structure back to spring water. No, I don’t really understand how it works either, but it does improve the taste. We use it all the time at home now* – pour tap water in, leave it for five minutes, and it’s noticeably less bitter and more smooth. Check out this video which explains how the technology works. Great neoprene or cotton sleeve designs, including one which was a collaboration with Yogi Teas, as well as a (Spanish) cork one which I chose.
Various other water treatment products and systems at the fair included a South Korean water hydrogenator, Hydrogen; apparently treated H20 is more readily absorbed into the body, lowering cholesterol, curing psoriasis and boosting the immune system. The Japanese buy little bags of hydrogenated water for 4 euros; the machine costs over 1000 euros. My reusable bottle costs 30 euros.
Capullos de seda – silkworm cocoons to use as a beauty product for your face; apparently they have natural anti-aging properties to smooth and firm the skin, protecting it from moisture loss. (Personally, I was tickled to discover there’s another meaning for the word capullo, hitherto “idiot” in my vocabulary.) These were from a company in Alicante called Igone Natural, who also had pretty floral soaps and other paraben-free products.
LapizDaVida is “the pencil which gives you a plant” (literally pencil gives life). With seeds cunningly deposited in the end, you use the pencil to about halfway down, plant it end-down in a pot, water it, and the end dissolves naturally, releasing the seeds which then grow into a plant – either a vegetable, herb or flower. More information here.
Organic sweet lemons, an old variety (not acid, but also without the zing), and delectable blood oranges (sharper than the normal ones, but with a distinctive berry taste, and full of antioxidants) from a small farm in the Guadalquivir valley in Palma del Rio, Cordoba, BioValle, which dates back nearly 80 years. They also produce mandarinas and grapefruit, and are constantly trying different varieties.
Fairtrade sustainable vegan recycled organic clothes (OK, maybe not all of those at once) from a shop in Malaga called Veganized – using non-toxic natural fabrics and plants such as tencel (made from wood pulp; apparently more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen), hemp and good old cotton. Converse-type sneakers using specially sourced rubber from Sri Lanka, cost 69 euros – a clean eco-conscience doesn’t come cheap.
Pinhole glasses – these stimulate your eyes to work harder, so that you can wear glasses less. They did work to an extent, but your vision has to adjust and that can cause headaches from the effort. I’m not sure I’d trust them for driving. An interesting idea by Vista Bona, who also make glasses for looking at screens – more details here.
Organic goat’s cheese – El Cabrero de Bolonia was from the mountains near the gorgeous Costa de la Luz beach town in Cadiz province. It is made from payoya goats, matured in poplar wood, and rolled in ash. More here.
An unexpected bonus was a stall with musical instruments, from shamanic drums to rainsticks, didgeridoos to xylophones, Tibetan prayer bowls to kalimbas (finger pianos), and windchimes of every size. A sign asking people not to try out the instruments was blatantly ignored by everyone – too tempting to blow, tap and shake. As Lola waited her turn for face-painting, Zac and I checked out the magical sticks, bowls and whistles on offer next door at Ritual Sound. The deep, resonant sounds of the drums played by Chema reverberated beautifully around the exhibition hall, like a soothing aural balm for weary visitors (or perhaps that was just me). We took home a storm tube, a simple gadget which makes a remarkably tormentuous noise.
In total 13,00 people attended the first BioCultura in Seville. For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the fair was how many of the companies with stands showing their innovative products had been started relatively recently – just two or three years ago in lots of cases. While a few were larger international businesses, a great number were Spain’s new breed of entrepreneurs, who have successfully raised the money to put their eco-friendly idea or product into action and are building up their markets. In the current economic climate, this is something to be admired.
Our second foodie event was Callejeando Food Fest – 11 food trucks by the river, on 26-29 February. This was the second of these events – the first was in November, when unfortunately it rained so we didn’t go. This time, the weather was great, the waterfront setting delightful, the ambience excellent – but the food was disappointing.
We tried the sushi, which was battered and deep-fried (I should have guessed it was overpriced and underwhelming by the lack of a queue, when all the other food trucks had 50 people waiting). We tried the Tex-Mex – mini-tacos with a dull vegetable filling, and nachos with inedible cheese sauce. A pregnant friend tried a burger, which turned out to be half-cooked. The saving grace was La Vieja Fabrica, the jam company, which had delicious vegan cupcakes. And my friend’s art activities for the kids were also a massive hit.
Nadia Slienger is a freelance artist who drew wonderful pictures for the children to colour in together, and even produced individual images to order.
With people sitting on the grassy bank in the sun, eating their street food, the live music contributed to the family festival atmosphere. What we liked: the art, the cakes. What we didn’t like: the queues, most of the food.
*Disclosure: I was given a Flaska which I use at home – all my family have noticed the difference in taste of our tap water once it has been treated in the Flaska. It wasn’t so, I’d tell you.