It’s orange season time again! There is nothing nicer than a freshly picked orange almost straight from the tree and for me, even juicing them seems a small crime compared with the joy of peeling and eating one fresh!
So it seemed an obvious choice to cover Oranges in our A to Z of Portugal
The Algarve produces between 300,000 and 400,000 tonnes of citrus fruits each year, and it is hardly surprising that the oranges grown here account for about 70% of the total oranges grown in Portugal – long days of hot sunshine, adequate water supplies and good soil ensure fine crops.
There is a real mixture to be found between large professional cooperatives and small farms – and even the smallest patch of land or garden often has a few orange trees tucked in the corner.
We had the pleasure of meeting the delightful and charming Manuel Medeira Rodrigues before Christmas, who is one of the older generation farmers running the MrFrutas company – one of the most recognised fruit farms in the Silves area – I am tempted to book on one of their 2 hour tours which sounds fascinating – and you get to pick your own fruit too!
The landscape is dotted with orange groves laden with fruit at the moment – often stretching as far as the eye can see, and providing an irresistible fragrance of orange as you approach them, this was a farm near Paderne recently:
One of the other common sights you can see now are fruit sellers and their stalls which dot the N125 – in some stretches of the road every few yards you will see a sign and a stall offering you 5kg for 2 Euros – or even cheaper!
We prefer to visit our friend in Odelouca, a dear old farmer and his wife who are so proud of their fruit, and weigh it out for you into a carrier bag on the most amazing old-fashioned brass scales.
The ‘tradition’ appears to be as follows – weigh the fruit meticulously; then throw a load more into the bag for free; then hand you an orange each to eat there and then to check that they are all ok!
The fruit arrives on a fantastic old tractor driven by the farmer – health and safety? pah!
If you are lucky you can even see orange trees along the side of the road – this street in Paderne intrigued me – I have no idea who these oranges would belong to – or whether you can just help yourself as you walk along?!
the Three Oranges – a fairytale
Oranges are even the substance of local folklore and fairytales too – I have been enchanted by an old book detailing Portuguese folk tales – as with many fairy stories and folklore, the themes often recur across many countries with slight deviations and one that charmed me was the tale of the three oranges – there are many different versions of this but here’s the basic gist of the story:
The handsome prince sets out in search of a beautiful princess to marry – he is given three oranges but told not to peel them unless he is near a source of water.
Impatient to find out the contents, he peels the first one – a beautiful maiden emerges, but as there is no water nearby, she dies in his arms.
You think he’d have learnt after this – but no, he peels the second one – maiden emerges – no water – maiden dies!
The third time he finally gets it (!) and peels the orange near to a waterfall – he gives the maiden a drink and she swoons in his arms but lives. She is too weak to travel back to the palace, so he leaves her sat in a tree (*I didn’t write this!) and goes back to get help.
Cue the evil nasty witch woman who is obviously jealous of the maiden’s beauty and the prince’s interest – she sticks a pin into the maiden’s head (!) and the maiden is transformed into a bird and flies off.
The Prince returns, finds the evil ugly witch woman – and for some reason known only to him then takes her back to the palace instead of the beautiful maiden (!)
The bird then appears and refuses to leave the palace grounds – eventually the prince finds the pin in the bird’s head (*as I have already said – I didn’t write this!!) and pulls the pin out – the beautiful maiden is restored to life, he marries her, kills the evil ugly witch, and lives happily ever after of course!
For the full version I can recommend this website SurlaluneFairytales
So next time you are eating an orange – keep an eye out for a bird hovering around you – and make sure that you are near a fountain of water!