The disparity of climates and geographical conditions in Spain makes it possible to cultivate an enviable variety of sub-tropical fruits in areas that have high levels of sunshine but mild average temperatures. Some of them reached Spain from the East and have been grown there since ancient times. Others are more recent, having come from the other side of the Atlantic after Christopher Columbus’ voyages to America in the 15th century.
Age-old cultivation and irrigation traditions and new production techniques come together in Spain to create a basketful of exotic fruits of many different species, shapes, colors and flavors that find a warm welcome on both domestic and international markets.
The one with the longest history in Spain is the pomegranate. Originally from Asia, it was already known in the Mediterranean area in ancient times. Its strikingly beautiful fruit was much loved by the Arabs to the extent that the Spanish town that was the capital of the last Muslim kingdom in Spain bears the Spanish name for pomegranate, Granada.
Another Asian fruit is the kaki or persimmon, of which there are numerous varieties. The one usually grown in Spain is the Rojo Brillante, in the Valencian Community along the banks of the Júcar river. The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Kaki Ribera del Xúquer acknowledges its high quality and sugar content.
Cherimoyas and Bananas, a Sweet Legacy
The cherimoya (or custard apple), an American native, was brought to the coasts of Granada by returning Andalusian emigrants, but large-scale cultivation only began in the second half of the 20th century. Today, the growing area spreads along the border between the Málaga and Granada coasts. The varieties grown have been generated locally and their special characteristics led to the granting of the Protection Designation of Origin (DOP) Chirimoya de la Costa Tropical de Granada-Málaga.
Other American natives, in this case from Central America, are the papaya or papaw, and the avocado which, like the cherimoya, are grown along the Granada and Málaga coasts and in the Canary Islands.
Also from the Canaries are the famous bananas, plátanos de Canarias. Bananas originated in Asia but were introduced into Africa in the 5th century and taken from there by Portuguese explorers several centuries later. Today they are the Canaries’ leading crop. The Canary banana varieties produce small-sized fruit with a speckled skin and very sweet fruit, making them very popular with consumers.
These fruits are usually eaten in their natural state but they may also be used in cold soups or salads, or as a partner for roast meat. They are excellent for making ice cream or sorbet, or as an ingredient in desserts devised by inventive cooks and pastrychefs.
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Article: Foods from Spain
Picture: Boris Oblak (Wikimedia Commons)