Cherries from Alfarnate – Málaga’s Jerte Valley
Fruit in the Upper Axarquía is Here to Stay
Some decades ago, chickpea was the most popular produce in Alfarnate. Today, cherries have substituted this kind of legumes. This sour fruit can be perfectly grown in this area due to its location and altitude (900 metres over the sea level). There are round twenty different varieties of cherries which are cultivated in the fields of Alfarnate. The most common is ‘quince’ [fifteen], named by a number as most of the types here, although more of them are produced in large quantities, like ‘celeste’ [sky blue], which is rather sweet, ‘burlat’, which is harvested early, or the one called ‘corazón de cabrito’ [young goat’s hearth], which appears later on. Other types are ‘starking’, ‘bing’ or ‘lapin’. Round four thousand cherry trees are source of 70,000 or 80,000 kilograms of cherries which are produced every year in Alfarnate. Most of them are sold for consumption and the rest are used in liquor industry or in cooking for making ‘gaspacho’ (a type of cold soup).
A large part of the Cherry harvest in Alfarnate is distributed in the province of Málaga. Some of the producers take cherries directly to the city of Málaga, or to Vélez-Málaga and other towns and villages on the Costa del Sol, while others are kept in Alfarnate to be sold there.
Actually, thousands of people come to the Cherry Blossom Festival every year to purchase cherries from farmers. This is a great food-industry event which is celebrated every year not only to sell cherries but also to underline the importance of this sour fruit. Lately, there are also plots where other red fruit is grown, such as raspberries, which are used by a local company ‘Licores de la Abuela’ [Liquors from the Granny’s recipes] to make liquors. Moreover, another liquor of cherries and ‘resolí’, made from coffee, are made in the village.
About the Area
Cherries adapt perfectly to the environment in this high village. Actually, their production has increased considerably in the last years so that the village became an example of cherry production. Moreover, today it is called ‘Jerte Valley in Málaga’ in order to emphasize this important product and compare it to the famous cherry blossom valley in Extremadura. Besides Alfarnate, there are cherry trees in other towns, above all, in the higher part of the province, like in Pujerra and Genalguacil in the Serranía de Ronda.
Cherries started to be grown in Alfarnate at the beginning of 1990s. According to local people, first cherry plantations were made in 1992. However, plenty of locals knew that this tree can easily adapt to the weather conditions in the village because some of them had already planted certain types of cherries ten years before in their gardens.
Cherries are famous for their anti-inflammatory properties and because they are one of the best fruit for cleansing the body. One of their benefits is their special property to reduce uric acid, as well as their laxative and diuretic qualities. Moreover, it helps prevent diseases such as anaemia, and improve BMD (bone mineral density) thanks to its components such as iron, calcium and vitamin C. They are rich in bioflavonoids that makes them useful for fighting cell degeneration.
Cherry trees are not only an important source of incomes for the village but also create a beautiful colourful scenery when they blossom at the end of winter and beginning of spring. This way the surroundings of Alfarnate in the Upper Axarquía get decorated with gorgeous pinkish cherry blossom.
In some countries like Japan, this moment is awaited with great expectations. There is a very old Japanese custom called hanami, when people eat under these trees while they admire their blossom with their family or friends.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Due to Japanese influence, the village of Alfarnate has created a tradition of celebrating Sakura – a Cherry blossom festival, when the streets get decorated with thousands of paper cherry flowers, and there are plenty of cultural activities and food events related to cherries and Japanese culture.
For more information, we recommend contacting the Town Hall of Alfarnate or checking the webpage 'Taste of Málaga’ (Sabor a Málaga).