this is the archive for the ‘algarving’ category:


oysters

although the only time we ever ate oysters a few years ago was quite memorable (for the worst reasons), i still think they’re pretty fascinating. how come this contorted ugly shells can produce such smooth interiors and even pearls sometimes?

even the ancient romans were intrigued by them, and decided to farm them off the coast of italy. these days, the local people continue this tradition here in the brackish waters of the ria formosa lagoon.

the whole operation looks surprisingly low-tech. the larvae are grown in tanks and later transfered to these mesh envelopes which are just laid on the floor or in raised beds, and get covered in water when the tide rises. they can stay there for over a year, depending on the size.

and apparently, unlike other forms of aquaculture, oyster farming is actually benign for the environment, as the bivalves filter the water for the bad stuff, at an incredible rate of up to 4 liters/hour.

intriguing as they might be, i think i’ll pass on them for the next few years at least…

gum rock rose

these days, the hills of algarve are covered with the beautiful white flowers of esteva, or gum rock rose. everywhere you look, the landscape is peppered with an explosion of white dots!

the sticky bushes where they grow are tough and not much to look at, but the flowers are such delicate things, tissue-thin and blowing in the wind.

this is such a beautiful season!

salicornia

moving south and next to a salt marsh has introduced a dozen new species of animals and plants into our vocabulary. geckos and chameleons are cute, as are the skittish flamingos that eat all the pink algae in the salt ponds. but it’s not just new animals that inhabit these salty places, special plants too — like salicornia!

also called sea asparagus or pickleweed, salicornia is a halophyte, a plant that is adapted to salty environments. when you bite into it, the saltiness immediately floods your mouth… like eating bits of the sea! the flavour is pleasant enough and the surprise saltiness in every bite makes for a fun addition to salads and other dishes.

it’s a bit of a gourmet thing these days, which is funny because for much of history, salicornia was considered a worthless weed. it reminds me of a Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote on the back of one of my field notes:

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

sounds about right!

maios

in the north of portugal, the first of may is usually greeted with “maias”, showy yellow flowers that bloom around this time of the year which the local people hang in doors… but in the south, the tradition is much more convoluted! meet the maios:

they’re like “scarecrows” that the local people make and sit in the streets or in their doorstep, usually accompanied by a short rhyme telling of a wise tale or sometimes a bit of political criticism. we passed these in a nearby town that was filled with them in every corner… and so we had to stop to have a look. :)

analogue wednesday #136

river crossings.