Dried Chestnuts: The Finest Autumn Treat In The Genal Valley
Located in Malaga’s Serrania de Ronda, the Genel Valley has already begun to show its Autumn colours. Each year, October is an important month for this beautiful location because that is the time when it welcomes its most precious fruit – the Pilonga Chestnut. The first and most daring have already begun to fall to the ground, only to be swept up those walking through the area in search of a few. With the harvest almost here, the chestnuts are about ready to arrive. The harvest usually lasts about three weeks and is treated with care at all stages of the process, ensuring respect for this valued symbol of the region.
The Pilonga Chestnut is covered with a layer referred to as the “hedgehog” and is softer than most other examples of the same fruit. Its size, brightness and easy peel-ability make it a delicacy across Europe, including destinations as far and wide as the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France. The process of gathering the chestnuts each year can involve whole families, creating a real tradition for those living in the villages of the Genal Valley. For this process, participants use rubber gloves to avoid cuts and store the nuts in esparto baskets for better conservation. The areas known for chestnuts deemed delicious for the most discerning palates include Parauta, Cartajima, Juzcar, Alpandeire, Faraj, Pujerra Igualeja Atajate Benadalid Benalauria, Algatocin, Genaguacil, Jugrique, Benarrabá and Gaucin.
For locals in the area, the arrival of the Pilonga Chestnut means far more than just a fruit harvest. To those living in the area, this period marks the arrival of a new source of wealth and well being. What better way to celebrate that event than the annual “Chestnut Festival”. A wonderful example of this festival can be found in the town of Pujerra, which has also managed to position itself as an essential culinary meeting point in the province of Malaga with this fruit as the centrepiece. A menu of over thirty different dishes with the chestnut as an ingredient can be found there. You can sample rice, croquettes, meatballs or stews or select desserts like puddings, cakes and donuts. During the holiday, it’s important not to forget to taste the main attraction – chestnuts roasted on open fires (the tostón Pujerra). This special day also includes a celebration of the quintessential, local liquor, “la mistela” , made with coffee beans, brandy, cinnamon and sugar creating a favourite companion for the entire chestnut holiday.
Now that autumn has arrived in the Genal Valley, what better time to arrange a visit to this compelling location. Who could resist the smell of roasted chestnuts? The seasonal browns and oranges that overtake this area each Autumn? Now is the time to plan an escape to the Serrania de Ronda and experience a one of a kind, Malaga fruit harvest experience.