Almond trees blooming

April 9th, 2008

Last February I took some pictures of the almond trees blooming in the way work. I didn’t have time to edit and post them until now. But now the post coincides with Sakura blooming in Japan :D, so I don’t regret very much not having posted these pictures before. Enjoy!

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This is my favourite picture

Flor de Pascua

December 31st, 2007

This plant is a typical Christmas decoration in many countries, Spain included. This year we were given one as a present:

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It’s called “Flor de Pascua” in Spanish, or Poinsetia. It’s a plant of Mexican origin. Red top leaves are often mistaken for flowers, but they are actually bracts ( modified leaves ). Their function is attracting pollinators, that’s the reason for the bright red color.

Blooming is from November to February, so it coincides with Christmas. It became popular during the colonial period, when was used to decorate churches for Christmas.

Oranges and Mandarins

December 4th, 2007

It’s already the orange and mandarin season. Some time ago, I went to the orchards to visit the fruits when they are still unripe. I took some pictures:

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Mandarin orchard

Unripe mandarins (clementines)

Spain is, by far, the first producer in the world of citrus fruits destined to the fresh market. It’s followed by the United States.

In Spain, citrus fruits are produced mainly at the South of Tarragona, Valencia, Castellón, Murcia and Sevilla regions.


December 4th, 2007

It’s supposed I should talk about Christmas because now it’s time…but I have very little good Christmas pictures. I think Christmas is similar everywhere. Family gathering, lots of eating/giving presents…and a few people will also remember the religious sense. In Spanish, Christmas is called Navidad. In Catalan, Nadal.

What do we do for Christmas? eating lots of turrón, polvorones, mazapanes (marzipan), neules (in Catalonia)…and many other Christmas sweets. Sometimes we also sing the typical Christmas Carols. In certain places it’s more usual to celebrate the night before Christmas ( 24th of December). In others, the 25th of December is more important. The family gathers these days and have a meal together. Fish and Shellfish is widely consumed so people buy it some time before and freeze it. As Christmas approaches, prices raise and raise.

About presents, traditionally were given the 5th of January. This is the night before Epiphany. The tradition says the three magi: Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar arrive at your home’s balcony with their three camels carrying presents for all the children who behaved well that year. If not, magi leave them coal. The night of the 5th of January you have to leave your shoes outside with some food and water for the camels and magi, because they will be very tired.

Nowadays, either Santa Claus or the “Three magi day” is celebrated. It depends on the parents. In my region there is another tradition for Christmas day. You need a log and a stick. The log is covered with a warm blanket and “feed” until Christmas. That day, children hit the log with the stick while singing a characteristic song. When the song finishes they touch under the blanket and realize that the log has “shit” sweets and presents. Please don’t take the word shit here very literally ^^U. In Spanish doesn’t sound so rude, maybe because Spanish people are very used to swear…I don’t know ^^U. People who visit Spain might be surprised with it.

Now, some pictures I took quickly today.

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A view of the roofs at night…roofs are different in every country. Don’t you think?

Sunset today…the sun set at 17:26 today.


October 14th, 2007

Halloween (31st of October) is approaching, but in Spain we didn’t use to celebrate it. In Spain is more traditional to celebrate the 1st of November, called “All Saints Day”. This day, people visit graveyards to offer flowers and clean the graves of their relatives. In Catalonia we also have a tradition of preparing roast chestnuts and sweet potatoes that we eat with “panellets“, a kind of little marzipan cakes with different shapes depending on the main ingredient. I hope I cant talk more about “panellets” in another post because I like them very much and I’d like to add pictures and recipes, and I should prepare them first, of course.

Returning back to the pumpkins and Halloween…It’s said that All Saints Day is the catholic version of the “Samhain“, the pagan celebration that Celtics had for the last day of the year. They believed that day the spirits of the dead could take over the bodies of the living and resurrect. To prevent this, they started decorating their houses with unpleasant objects as skulls, bones and other sinister looking things, so that the dead would get scared and avoid the houses. So, although this celebration has become popular through American culture, has in fact an European origin.

Some years ago, many Spanish people started celebrating Halloween too, so they now celebrate two holidays: Halloween and the All Saints Day. But officially only the 1st of November is a holiday in Spain.

A pumpkin field in Spain:

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I’d like to finish talking about what we do with pumpkins when it isn’t Halloween. In Valencia they prepare “buñuelos de calabaza“, a round wheat flour and pumpkin dough fried in oil, when it’s Fallas time.

In Spain is widely used (all the year) in pastries, cakes, etc… a kind of pumpkin jam known as “cabello de ángel” (”angel’s hair” because it looks like golden filaments) and which is really sweet and sticky. We also prepare pudding, creams and soups and it’s very tasty. I’ve seen it even as a pasta filling…but this is an Italian recipe.

Apart from cuisine, during years pumpkins had been used in other ways. People used to dry them and use as a float when plastic floats didn’t exist. They gathered some and tied them around their waist. The type of pumpkin used for floats is not the same of the picture. It’s a much smaller type. Dried pumpkins of this smaller type were used as containers too, making a hole at the stalk and placing a cork. A different type of pumpkin with a long stalk was used to make a funnel cutting the top of the stalk and the bottom.

Also, when saying you “bring pumpkins” (“traer calabazas”), people will understand you failed an exam. Nowadays is a little old fashioned expression.

Little harbour

October 11th, 2007

These are some pictures taken in the harbour of l’Ampolla, a little village by the Mediterranean Sea and near Delta de l’Ebre (Ebro Delta, more info). Delta de l’Ebre is famous for its rice fields and the National Park, extraordinarily rich in flora and fauna (specially migratory birds). It’s one of the most important wetlands in Europe.

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Fishing boats


A duck in the sea! it was in the harbour, near fishing nets

As l’Ampolla has a big fishing tradition, fish and seafood dishes are really good. For example dishes of oysters, rice&seafood paella, black rice, eel, many fish types…can be eaten here.

Here I leave a pair of videos of Delta de l’Ebre:

A little video of the landscape in l’Encanyissada wetlands.

A video showing the rice fields and the rice harvesting.

Pictures: Blackrice
Videos: Their respective owners at Youtube

A real plate of black rice

October 11th, 2007

This is a plate of black rice I had in a restaurant recently. I promised I would take a picture myself didn’t I?

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October 11th, 2007

Have you ever heard of olive oil (aceite de oliva, in Spanish)? It’s the healthiest vegetable oil, but it isn’t the topic of this post. We’ll talk about it soon.

This is the fruit where it comes from. It’s called “olive” (oliva, aceituna). The one in the picture is ready to be collected. The largest producers in the world are Spain and Italy, olives are a Mediterranean product after all.

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Olives can’t be eaten right after being collected. They enter a process to eliminate its bitter taste and soften them, and it’s also needed for preservation. There are many methods of curing/pìckling olives but, at home, I’ve always seen the brine-curing method only. My grandfather knows well the process. Maybe I can give further information in future posts.

Watch the traditional way of collecting olives in Spain:

Peasants hit olive tree’s branches with sticks (traditional way) or also with vibrating rakes, pneumatic shakers, etc… Olives fall on the ground, over a big mesh they have previously placed there, around the tree. There are also special tractors (harvesters) that circle the tree, shake the branches and olives go directly inside the vehicle. To use these tractors trees must be planted in broad rows.

Pictures: Blackrice
Videos: Their respective owners at Youtube

“Castells” Or Human Towers

June 8th, 2007

Human towers called “castells” ( castles, in English ), are based in a great teamwork.

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This tradition comes from the North East of Spain, from a certain area near Tarragona, and it’s performed during local festivals or special meetings, for example the contest you see in these pictures. Many “colles” ( teams ) compete during a whole weekend. The towers they build get a punctuation depending on its difficulty and towers that have been loaded and unloaded get more points that the ones that have only been loaded. You may wonder what happens with the tower if it has been only loaded…well, the answer is very simple and unpleasant. They just fall down. Usually, nobody gets harmed because there is a kind of “mattress” formed by people and called “pinya” ( pine cone, the reason is obvious ). You can see it on the next pic.

This is the same castle after being loaded, the child called “anxeneta” climbs to the top and raises an arm to indicate that the castle has been loaded. Children are essential for the castle and because of the risk involving its building there has been a lot of controversy about if children should take part in a castle.

Little by little, people climb over their team members until they reach their position. People at the upper part of the castle must be rather lightweighted and people at the lower part tend to be stronger.

A closer look at the castle:

A castle almost ready for the “anxeneta” to raise an arm…

Each castle has a name depending on the number of people forming each floor and the number of floors. The children at the top are considered as three floors. The “pinya” or base doesn’t count as a floor. So, what you have in the last picture is a 4 of 8 (”4 de 8″).

There are many variations of the typical castle I’ve described here, for example there is a pillar, build by only one person each floor. Or castles that have a pillar inside, etc…

Sometimes pillars on local holidays walk and go down stairs. It’s very impressive.

A video:

Pictures: Sabrina’s friend
Video: The respective owner at Youtube

“Turrón” Ice Cream

June 8th, 2007


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This is the summer version of the typical Christmas desert: turrón, which has been eaten in Spain since the sixteenth century. Its origin comes from the arabic domination, when Spain was known as Al-Andalus.

Turrón is made of almonds ( the main ingredient ), sugar, honey and egg white ( albumen ). Nowadays, for Christmas there are many varieties such chocolate, yolk, coconut…but the original one is made from almond. Its shape is rectangular, like a tablet 2 o 3 cm thick.

There are two almond types of “turrón”, the hard version and the soft one. The hard is called Alacant/Alicante and the soft is called Xixona/Jijona. The last one is very oily.

The quality depends on the amount of almonds used. Real Alacant version must be at least the 60% almond. Xixona must be 64% to be considered real Xixona.

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