Where I live in southern Spain, autumn is not heralded by the changing colours of leaves on the trees – almost all trees hereabouts are evergreen – pines, olives, avocados and citrus. Only the almonds lose their leaves in a very unspectacular way. It is, nevertheless a colourful season, when oranges and lemons are changing from green to…well, orange and lemon! And if you know where to look you will find totally neglected pomegranate trees quietly getting on with the business of ripening their beautiful and exotic looking fruit. The Spanish word for pomegranate is Granada and the fruit is considered one of the ‘healthiest foods on the planet, packed with nutrients and powerful plant compounds’. I remember as a child, my mother would proudly present us with a precious pomegranate once or twice a year, and we three children and our parents would share a single fruit and pick out the seeds (arils) one by one with a pin.
These days the fruits are more plentiful in grocery stores in the UK, and here in Spain they are literally hanging from the trees. Many of these trees must be self seeded – not really surprising I guess for a tree with such an abundance of seeds! Almost every tree is left for the fruit to over-ripen, split open, dry out and fall to the ground. Now, I love pomegranates and I absolutely hate waste. It literally hurts me to see food left discarded on the ground. And so for the last few years I have collected fruit from a couple of trees that no-one else bothers with or probably even knows exist. In the past I have deseeded and frozen the fruit, and work my way through it by sprinkling a handful on my breakfast oats and on my lunchtime salad. Such a huge punchy taste and what a wonderful cheery colour. This year I have branched out and made several batches of pomegranate molasses – fabulous as a salad dressing or in a dessert.
I was very glad to be able to restock my freezer with this fruit as I was devastated to lose the entire contents of my packed freezer a few weeks ago when a power cut occurred whilst we were away from home for a few days. About 8 kilos of apricots from my tree and countless figs both donated by a friend and foraged (with permission) from a neighbour’s plot. Plus countless ready meals prepared with love for a quick dinner. All gone! And then to add insult to injury I had to bag it up and send it to the tip.
I so looked forward to half an apricot each morning, it was like a circle of sunshine every day and my hoard would last the full year until the next crop was ready. Oh well, I now have an equally punchy flavour to add to my oats, just a different colour!
The other thing that we hope the autumn brings us is rain. And we have received an abundance of the wet stuff during the last week, albeit, interspersed with beautiful blue sky sunny days. During recent grey days of heavy rain I have spent many hours deseeding pomegranates, and juicing some of them to make a molasses reduction. But I also had another important task to attend to – most notably planning my next camino. It is normal for me to have thought about and decided upon my next route at this time of year, but rather early for me to plan stages in detail and work out how many days I will be walking. This is because I have a childminding commitment in early June and so have a set end date. There are also a couple of camigas to keep in the loop.
And so I can share with you that I (we) will be walking from Alicante on the Camino de la Lana over around 26 stages to Burgos, where we will hop on a bus to Cistierna halfway through the Camino Olvidado (Forgotten way) which crosses at right angles to the Camino Salvador that I walked last year. The Olvidado meets the Camino Frances (by far the most popular route) at Ponferrada where we will cross over to the Camino Invierno (Winter route) and make our way to Santiago de Compostela. Probably 46 walking days, with maybe a day off for exploring the ‘hanging’ city of Cuenca, a place I have long wanted to visit, and a day for travelling between the Lana and Olvidado. Three lesser walked routes, so I am very, very glad that I will have the company of two camigas with whom I walked last year (unless things change, which of course is entirely possible). Watch this space!
On the beautiful blue sky sunny days I took a couple of walks – how glorious it was…