Monday, 23 April 2012

Fruit from the Farm

Over the 16 years we’ve lived in Asturias we have planted many different types of fruit on our farm, some have been more successful than others. 

Harvesting our cider apples in the autumn

Without doubt the most important has been the 7 acre extensive cider apple orchard which we planted in the winter of 1996. We now harvest about 10 tons of apples year and they go to make apple juice, some of which we serve in the hotel.  Our flock of xalda sheep grazes under the apple orchard and this mixed extensive production system has been reasonably successful and has since been copied by other small farmers in the area. 

Delicious black cherries
In the early years we also wanted to plant some ornamental trees around the farm but we were reluctant to plant non indigenous specie. Wild cherries abound in Asturias so we decided to plant some grafted cherry trees around the farm. As well as producing delicious fruit they have lovely blossom which delights the countryside in April and then in late summer they produce gorgeous autumn colour. The trees are now growing well although it can be a challenge to harvest the fruit before the birds eat them.

 Abundant harvests of raspberries


 Physalis or cape gooseberries

It was about eight years ago when we decided we wanted more home grown fresh organic produce for the restaurant and that’s when we planted a large variety of different fruit to see what would grow well. Most of our soft fruit has been very successful and we now have abundant crops of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, black currants and physalis (cape gooseberries) all of which are used to make no end of delicious desserts. Gooseberries, redcurrants and blueberries were unsuccessful and were grubbed after 3 years of trials. The gooseberries and redcurrants were continually defoliated by saw fly and the blueberries always looked a sickly yellow colour as the soil is not acid enough for them. 


.....and strawberry desserts

Of the tree fruit we planted at that time, the persimmons have been very successful as have the plums. The pears and Asiatic pears have done quite well and we also harvest a few meddlers from our slow growing meddler tree. We have however had no harvest from the loquat, peach of fig trees we planted; maybe we are just too impatient.

 Plum blossom

In recent years we are having big problems with voles in the apple orchard. These horrible creatures which are a huge problem in the whole of Northern Spain live under the ground eating amongst other things the roots of apple trees which they seem to love. With damaged or no roots the trees soon fall over and die. We have now lost about 25% of our apple trees and so have started to look for other trees (which have less appetizing roots for voles) to plant in the orchard. We have planted trials of kiwis and “kiwinos,” time will tell if these will crop well on our farm and survive the voles.  We have also planted a small plantation of hazelnuts to see if they will be affected by the voles. We started planting different varieties of hazelnuts several years ago and they crop well on our farm. 

 Kiwi trial

 Large fruited hazelnuts from the farm

So as time goes on, with certain ups and downs and a continual learning process, we are producing more and more fruit on the farm.

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Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.