vino de cangas © Mónica R Goya

Beatriz Pérez of young Bodega VidAs is the president of the Cangas Wine Protected Designation of Origin regulatory board. She has been on the job for over a year now and she is working extensively to raise awareness of the unique "Vino de Cangas" (Cangas wine) in Spain and abroad. In this interview she talks about her beloved Cangas wine and why we need to protect it.

 

How long have you been the President of the Cangas Wine PDO? What are your tasks?
I was elected along with the rest of the members of the current board of directors at the General Assembly held in December 2016.
My job is to represent the Cangas Wine Association as well as defend and promote our Cangas PDO wine, our viticulture and our native varieties and make this project attractive so that more people can join and grow with them.

How would you define Cangas wine?
The wines of Cangas are Atlantic, more similar to the wines of the north of Portugal, Galicia or south of France that to wines of the Iberian plateau. Due to the characteristics of both the climate and the terroir (mainly slate) the wines are fresh, with natural acidity that makes them very good for aging, they are fruity, medium-grade (between 12-13º) which makes them easy to drink. Being made with unique varieties, these are original, exclusive wines, produced in very limited editions which makes them highly appreciated in expert sectors for their difference, quality and originality.

What makes Cangas wine different? Why is it called heroic viticulture?
The Cangas wine is a product rooted in the Asturian south-west, here we are wine people culturally speaking, wine has always been present in our lives and it rules the calendar.
Our viticulture is recognised with the international seal "Heroic viticulture or mountain viticulture" because our vineyards are settled in small plots with a 30% máximum slope, which makes cultivation difficult and makes the work exclusively manual with the help of very little mechanisation (As it can be a small tractor to load the boxes of grape during the harvest). The grapes are handpicked, all manual, and it’s done in boxes of about 17 kg to preserve the quality of the grapes during transportation until they are processed in the winery.

Cangas wine grapes © Mónica R Goya

What grape varieties are grown in the area? Are there local ones? What's the most difficult of having vineyards in a mountainous area such as Cangas?
In our Cangas PDO we have four native grape varieties: Albarín Blanco, Albarín Negro, Verdejo Negro and Carrasquín. We also have other varieties that are also grown in other production areas, mainly Mencía and Blanca Extra.
The difficulty of making wine in our area comes hand in hand with the type of vineyard and winery. The vineyards are small plots, there are no large extensions of vineyards as in other Spanish wine regions. In addition, the work in the vineyard is manual and this makes farming much more expensive, the average price of Cangas grapes per kg is around  1.50€. The size of the wineries is small, we are family run wineries that put extra care on each of our wines, we could say that we elaborate handcrafted wines of limited editions. Not being a large processing area, everything becomes more expensive, transportation, bottles, labels, marketing, etc.

Please tell us about the history of the Cangas wine
The oenological tradition in the southwest region of Asturias dates back to the ninth century. The first Asturian monasteries brought an agricultural evolution that led to the greatest use of available land.  Part of that land was devoted to the vines. The liturgical need of these communities was decisive for the development of viticulture.
After the foundation of the monastery of San Juan Bautista de Corias in the eleventh century, the area devoted to vineyard cultivation began to multiply and this trend would continue until the nineteenth century. The vineyards of that time already had many of the unique characteristics that we can still find in today’s ones.
The buoyant mining industry led to a generalised abandonment of the vineyards, to the point that it almost disappeared. About 20 years ago, a recovery process began, planting the seeds of what is now recognised as the Cangas Protected Denomination of Origin.

Cangas de Narcea © Mónica R Goya

Are wineries open to the public?
Some of the current wineries in the Cangas PDO offer visits to both the vineyards and the winery where the characteristics of the growing methods as well as the elaboration of the wines are explained.

Some producers have done an amazing work recovering old vineyards. How do you envision the future of Cangas wine?
An enormous effort has been made to recover old vineyards that are currently in production, as well as to improve cultivation techniques and to start new plantations with native varieties. I think the project "Wine from Cangas" is an attractive project, there are young people who are determined to plant and create new wineries. For a depressed area such as the southwest of Asturias, especially after the mining crisis, the Cangas wine can help develop the area, set the population and create jobs, things that unfortunately are very necessary.

Where can you buy Cangas wine outside Asturias?
The wineries export to countries like United States, Japan, and to the rest of Europe, to countries like Holland, England etc.
Within Spain you can find Cangas wine in Madrid, Barcelona and other regions.

Can you recommend any particular bottles of Cangas wine?
As president of the Cangas PDO I recommend each and every one of the bottles produced under our seal, guaranteed with the official back label that informs us and ensures that the wine that is being purchased is a wine made in the production area and with the grape varieties that are grown in the vineyards of heroic viticulture in our area. It is very important to check this back label since it is the only guarantee that the consumer has about the origin of the wine and the grapes from which it is made.

vino de Cangas vineyard © Mónica R Goya
 
 
 
Arandanos Grandas de Salime - © Monica R Goya

Asturias is brilliant to grow blueberries, the weather and its fertile soil make a perfect combination to grow this delicious berries. 

Wild blueberries aren't difficult to find in Western Asturias, a mostly untouched territory where the mix of coastline, mountains and reservoirs is breathtaking. The recently built motorway takes you from Oviedo to Navia in around an hour. I still remember when travelling to Western Asturias in the summer included several stops to collect wild blueberries that grew freely on the side of the road. 

Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya

The difficulty lies in knowing where to find them. However, if you are around that area, you must stop to buy some at the Caxigal's cooperative orchard, just outside Grandas de Salime. 

We talked to Manuel, who explained to us that in their two hectares they grow six different blueberry varieties. Thanks to that, they are collecting berries from June to October. They started the orchard ten years ago and have been collecting blueberries from it for seven years now. Most of the 17,000 kg of blueberries they collect annually are exported abroad to France, UK and Holland mainly. The orchard is an addition to all the amazing conservation work that this pro-environment cooperative does to preserve the area and sustain the livelihoods of rural people.

Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya

Their blueberries are delicious, full of intense flavour and as fresh as it can get. Caxigal's berries are grown with minimum use of chemicals and their superior quality makes them perfect from jams and compotes. 

Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya
Blueberries, Grandas de Salime © Monica R Goya

 

Caxigal
El Chaelo s/n 33730 Grandas de Salime

 
 
 
Güeyu Mar sardines - © Monica R Goya

Güeyu Mar is a favourite restaurant in Asturias. A five-minute walk from the spectacular beach of Vega in Ribadesella, its location is as breathtaking as the food on their grill.

Sardinas_Gueyu_Mar_MonicaRGoya_4.jpg

But today it’s not about the restaurant, it’s about what you can buy to enjoy their savoir faire long after your visit. Their sardines. Olive oil and sardines, that’s it. It might sound simple but it took them over a year to develop a formula that respects the subtlety of Güeyu's grill magic and adapts the flavour, texture and aroma of the sardines for canning.

This treasure is available to take home with you and I urge you to do so. Not only to taste what will likely be among the best canned sardines you will ever have, but also to travel back to Asturias, to its sandy beaches and its soulful cuisine.

Playa de Vega, Asturias © Monica R Goya
 
 
 
Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

A day in the life...

Of a dairy farmer in central Asturias

Lee en castellano


Benigno Cueto is a dairy farmer who works and lives in central Asturias. He has been working in farming for over thirty years and can’t picture himself doing anything else. He loves the outdoors and being in contact with nature and that pays off the hard work involved in his business. 

Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

His day starts at six o’clock in the morning. Around half six he goes to the stable, cleans, prepares the food for the cows and then takes the cattle to the milk station. When he first started he only had four or fives cows and he milked them by hand. Back then his cows weren’t a business, it was a hobby and a way of knowing where the milk the family was having came from while saving up some money. At some point his mum, who used to help, broke her arm and they decided to buy a milking machine to make things easier.

When the first milking session of the day ends, the cows have food –that he has previously arranged- and while they eat, he goes for breakfast. That would be around nine o’clock.

Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

His cows are mainly grain-fed although they do get grass as well. His operation would probably fit into the industrial production category; however, his cows are spoilt. He cares about them and their quality of life and good proof of it is that he has forty-five cows and calls each of them by their name.

After breakfast he goes back to check on the cattle, gives them some more food, makes their dry grass beds –yes, the cows have “beds”- and then cleans the stables again. Around half eleven/midday he takes his cattle out to different fields, sometimes nearby, some others a bit further and they stay outside until around six o’clock, maybe a bit earlier in the winter. Around that time, he leads them inside the stables again, they eat –their feed includes grain and also silos store hay that cows absolutely adore- and then they are milked around seven o’clock. In the summer they go out again around half eight because they sleep outside. They stay inside at night only in the colder months, between November and May.

Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

“At first calves were born and I kept keeping them, I enjoyed spending time with the cows… and then I had to build the stable, the first one twenty-one years ago, the second, thirteen”. He remembers the old days when cows used to live much longer than now. “You can’t get too attached because you know beforehand how the story ends, you know what will happen… The business is so tight that when I cow is not profitable you need to get rid of it. Not long ago I sold one that was twelve years old and I was very sad. Now they last an average of six or seven years”, he says.

Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

Benigno isn’t hopeful to the future of his industry. “It doesn’t look good at all. Here in Asturias for example, it looks as if the farms will disappear when my generation retires. There are few people after us, many of us are single and the ones who have families, their children go somewhere else for work, not necessarily because they don’t like farming, but because it’s harder and harder to make a living out of it”, he explains. In some areas of the region people who are pre-retired have cattle and he says that it’s unfair not only because they do get many subsidies, but also because they have their pre-retirement salary and they can afford to pay more for renting pastures what increases the price for the rest as well, making it more difficult to survive. Furthermore, he thinks that the end of the EU milk quota isn’t helping either, especially in the case of small farms like his, but he is somehow hopeful that the situation will improve in the near future. 

Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

He admits that if he had to build now the stables he has, he probably wouldn’t be able to afford. “I wouldn’t recommend start a business like this to anyone these days” and he adds “it is very difficult for people like me and I have been doing it for a really long time, I think starting from scratch now would be impossible”.

Cattle farmer, Asturias | Monica R. Goya

Committing to a job where holidays are non-existent and where the working hours are never-ending is not for everyone. “If you are willing to work, in this sector you could work every hour of the day and there would be still plenty of things to do, money not so much, but loads of work to do, always”, says Benigno, and he adds “however I always try to save some time for myself, to relax a bit, maybe go for a bike ride or go out for lunch with some friends. And what’s the point if you don’t enjoy life?”.

 
 
 

In Search of Gamonéu del Valle PDO

The family behind Vega Ceñal Dairy is lucky enough to call the breathtaking village Gamonéu de Cangues home.  Located in Picos, they also produce one of the most special cheeses in Asturias: Gamonéu del Valle PDO 

Lee en castellano


Gamonéu (or Gamonedo) is a slightly smoked fatty cheese that originated centuries ago in the homonymous area in the county of Cangas de Onís, in Picos, Eastern Asturias. It is produced from a blend of raw cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk and it is slightly spicy, with a crumbly texture and a subtle hazelnut aftertaste. This hard or semi-hard cheese has visible greenish-blue Penicillium close to the edges and its PDO comprises the counties of Cangas de Onís and Onís, both in Picos. This cheese represents like no other the essence of Asturias.

María del Mar Crespo, a member of the family who runs Vega Ceñal Dairy, says that ‘now after getting the PDO more cheese is produced, before it looked as if the cheese was deemed to disappear’. As a matter of fact, she is quite right since last year the production of this cheese, whose future was once feared to be threatened, went up 9%. 
 

This cheese was awarded PDO status in 2007, but its tradition goes centuries ago. Furthermore, there are 17th Century documents addressed to King Felipe IV that cited this cheese as the sustenance “of the county’s poorest”. The cheese is a product of the traditional local transhumance. The families who settled seasonally in the high mountains with their livestock looked for ways to keep the excess milk edible throughout the year. Cheese and butter was the answer.  

María del Mar has been working in the dairy for as far as she can remember and theirs is one of the nineteen PDO registered dairies that produce this unique cheese. At Vega Ceñal they raise their own animals and so the environmental footprint of their business is minimal as milk doesn’t need to be transported from afar. It all happens in the valley, in Gamonéu.

There are two types of Gamonéu cheese, ‘Del Valle’ (from the valley) and ‘Del Puertu’ (from the mountains). 

Gamonéu del Valle is made in the lower mountains, in the valley, all year round. This variety makes 96% of the total PDO production. Many of the producers have cleverly managed to recreate in their dairies the humidity and temperature conditions of the traditional limestone caves where all the cheeses used to be aged. In this way they are adapting their productions to health and safety EU regulations without compromising on their cheeses’ essence or quality. 

According to María del Mar, their peak production is thirty kilos a day and they are busiest in springtime. They make the cheese every other day and the production method is regulated by the PDO.

As she explains, the first step of the production is milking the animals. Then the three types of milk (cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s) are blended and warmed up, the curdling agent is added and the blend is left to set for 2 to 5 days. Then they are moulded and salted. After two or three days the cheese is smoked for at least 15 to 20 days and it’s also dried for two weeks. Then the cheese is taken to the caves –in the case of the Gamonéu del Valle the caves are usually recreated in their dairies- where it has to be for at least a month. 

At Vega Ceñal their cheeses are produced from the three types of milk and the percentages are roughly as follows: 25% goat’s, 25% sheep’s and 50% cows’ milk. The family has been in the business for generations and they have upgraded their Dairy in 2009 to the highest standards. If you feel you have to see where their magic happens –trust me, you won’t regret it- they offer guided Dairy tours every Saturday. Bookings on: +34 659 989 198.

On the other hand, Gamonéu del Puertu is one of the most exquisite and unique cheeses in the world. It is a seasonal cheese -only made in the summer months (June to September)- currently produced by only four cheese makers.

What is really exceptional about this cheese is that it is handmade in the tiny cabins in the high mountains (known as Puertu) in Picos, where the producers spend the summer months. Then it is matured in secret caves in the same area. The milk comes from animals that graze solely in the meadows up in the very same mountains in Picos. While up there, the cows, goats and sheep are out in the open, with no shelter whatsoever. Given the characteristics of the terrain, rough and accessible only on foot, carrying food for the animals isn’t an option and they are obviously grass-fed.

Furthermore, because Picos is a National Park, it is environmentally protected by law and building is forbidden –including stables or barns- thus the animals are in the outdoors at all times. One could say that Gamonéu del Puertu is basically a high mountain affair.   

Last year the production of Gamonéu del Puertu was 3,961 kg, just 4% of the total Gamonéu PDO production (Del Valle, produced throughout the year in the valley, makes 96% of the total). Moreover, the first Gamonéu del Puertu pieces of the season went for 38€/kg. If you want to try this exclusive variety, make sure you visit Asturias in October. Usually the first pieces are sold at Regional Fairs in October; the most popular is likely the annual Picos de Europa Cheese Fair –celebrating its 76th edition this year-. 

Gamoneu de Cangues / Monica R. Goya

Quesería “Vega Ceñal”
Gamonéu de Cangas
Cangas de Onís
Asturias

+34 626 444 003
+34 659 989 198

 
 
 
Pasteleria Cabo Busto / Monica R Goya

"I just want to be happy and enjoy what I do"

When talent and the will to do things right intersect, the result are projects as special as Cabo Busto bakery, a space where Jhonatan González's magic takes advantage of Asturian produce superb quality

Lee en castellano


His bakery is a cheerful place, the bright colours and vintage feel make it look as a set  from one of Wes Anderson's films. Located in Western Asturias, near the cliffs of Busto in Valdés county, this bakery is a feel good place.

Pasteleria Cabo Busto / Monica R Goya
Pasteleria Cabo Busto / Monica R Goya

Jhonatan's courage and determination led him to open his bakery in his charming little village three years ago, becoming a prophet in his own land.

Ever since he was a child he has enjoyed helping out his uncle Ángel at his bakery. He remembers nostalgic those days "when all the family got together to help, with bollos preñaos (a typical Asturian bread chorizo roll) or with whatever there was needed. I was very young, I am sure I didn't help much, but I loved to go there, I very much liked the bakery".

Jonathan Gonzalez, Pasteleria Cabo Busto / by Monica R Goya

Jhonatan went to Culinary School in Gijón and he graduated both in Baking & Pastry and in Culinary arts. He did work experience at Casa Gerardo, one of Asturias finest restaurants, but his passion for pastries was stronger. That's why after that he worked for two years at patisserie Pomme Sucré in Gijón, where he claims to have learnt the importance of raw materials and high quality produce. But his roots where calling and in his mid twenties he went back to his hometown, Busto.

"When I started I baked in my house's oven, I only did magdalenas (Spanish sort-of muffins), my uncle used to sell them when he went to the villages around here to sell his bread. Then people started ordering cakes for parties and it all started a bit like that", says Jhonatan, and adds "at times I felt a bit overwhelmed, sometimes businesses grow slowly but this was a more like a jump, from baking magdalenas at home to make over a hundred dozens of pastries at weekends".

Pasteleria Cabo Busto / by Monica R Goya

Jhonatan takes pleasure in the small things of everyday life, like picking up some raspberries from his garden knowing that two hours later they will be on a cake. Or talk to his neighbours and clients.

"I don't care much about money, I just want to be happy and enjoy what I do. Money comes and goes and life goes so quickly, you cannot rewind", says Jhonatan. City life wasn't for him, "I much rather be here in my village, earning less, but being near my family, going for a walk with my dog to the lighthouse down the road, just doing something I love and people appreciate".

His humbleness is surprising, especially considering his age and how far he has gone already. Some people drive for over an hour just to buy his pastries and cakes. And with good reason. Jhonatan and his team have high standards and innovative ideas that don't go unnoticed.

Pasteleria Cabo Busto / by Monica R Goya

"We try to play with different textures, with pastries that aren't excessively sweet, we aim for freshness" claims the baker. He wants to reformulate the idea that a dessert is something that makes you full, "I aim for my desserts to be something fresh, that is why I use fruits and acid notes all the time".

Few pastries can better represent Asturias' essence than his hazelnut sablée. "It is 100% hazelnuts, hazelnut sablée, hazelnut crunchy pastry shell with Maldon salt, hazelnut mousse, a layer of chocolate, roasted hazelnut and a hazelnut streusel with hazelnut praliné".

Pasteleria Cabo Busto / by Monica R Goya

The baker confesses that from all the Asturian produce, he feels most attracted to hazelnuts and apples, “they are a very interesting combination”. And surely one of the creations he feels most proud of is his Asturias cake. It is made with hazelnut marzipan, apple compote and surprisingly, cider jam.

He claims that he got inspiration from the Santiago cake -ubiquitous in every street in the Galician capital- when he was looking to create a cake that could travel at room temperature and at the same time keeping fresh for long. *[I can assure that one of his delicious Asturias cakes got to London in perfect shape and condition after a week in the fridge in my last visit to Asturias]*.

For this new season Jhonatan is working in new formulas, “we are looking into merging pastries and cocktails”. He unveils some clues: mojito mousse, gin tonic, piña colada…

As well as his spectacular pastries and cakes, he has also mastered the art of the French pastries, like croissants or pains au chocolat. The intense hard work behind each of his pastries is clear in the first bite. Layers and layers of puff pastry with a crunchy exterior and a very soft texture, his croissants are simply a dream. 

Croissants by Jonathan Gonzalez, Cabo Busto/ Copyright: Monica R. Goya

Furthermore, Jhonatan makes bespoke cakes and pastries for diabetics and also does show cooking at weddings. His bakery, where he talks to his clients by their first names, is open Saturdays and Sundays only, however during the week he takes orders by phone. 

Pasteleria Cabo Busto / Copyright: Monica R Goya

The picnic area in cape Busto, around 1,2 miles away from the bakery, offers the best views to enjoy Jhonatan’s delicious creations. Those rough cliffs have been an inspiration for him. And where could his pastries be more enjoyable than at the place he calls ‘my happy place’? 

Pasteleria Cabo Busto / Copyright: Monica R Goya
Pasteleria Cabo Busto / Copyright: Monica R Goya
Cabo Busto / Copyright: Monica R Goya

Pastelería Cabo Busto

Busto, s/n, 33789 Luarca, Asturias

+34 635 59 01 94

 
 

An Asturian cider house

Sidra Frutos is a family run cider house that produces over 500,000 litres of Asturian natural cider a year

Lee en castellano


Cider is so intrinsically linked to Asturian culture that the beverage is key to understand this land and its residents. Gustavo Costales is one who has cider in his DNA. His family has been running Sidra Frutos from 1935, when his great-grandfather, Fructuoso –hence the company’s name, Frutos- founded the cider house that he manages today. Located in Quintueles, between Gijón and Villaviciosa, this llagar (Asturian for cider house) produces around 500,000 litres of sidra (cider) a year.

Gustavo is kind and straight-forward, with a smile on his face and the self-confidence that being the fourth-generation in the family business must entitled to, he explains that “I started to work here when I was around 20. When I was younger, 14 or 15, I used to come during the summer and I gave a hand with cleaning bottles, distribution, bottling…”. Many cider houses in Asturias are family business and those who grow up within the industry know better than anyone that there are harvests and harvests. However, Asturians have no mercy at the sidrerías. In the land where apples grow, being good isn’t enough. The cider has to have certain attributes that people simply expect. Excellence is just the norm.

The most frantic months at the llagar start with the apple harvesting, at the end of the summer/beginning of autumn and last for around two months. “In those days we work really long hours –says Gustavo, who adds- we only get to sleep 5 or 6 hours, but that is the way it is”.     

As Gustavo explains the process of cider making, he recognises that “the seasons set the pace for cider making”. When the season starts, the apples get into the llagar and they are cleaned with pressurised water, then only suitable apples are selected and sent to be ground down. The resulting pulp is then transferred to the cider press to extract the juice; the latter can take up to three days. Finally, the apple juice is moved to the barrels to ferment. Normally fermentation can take from three weeks to over six. As Gustavo explains, “the warmer the weather, the faster the sugar is consumed, the colder, the slower” and he adds “that is why I said that it is nature that sets the pace, from the apple ripeness, to its collection or fermentation… nature rules”.

From there the cider develops little by little into the Asturian cider we know. The bottling moment can come after four months in the barrels or after twelve, it doesn’t have a fix period. “Once I have the barrels full, I have cider to bottle all year long, you have to take into account that in two months you are making the cider that you will bottle in December, but also the one you’ll bottle almost a year later”.  

In the middle of my visit comes José Antonio, a specialist technician whose job involves assuring that cider meets high quality standards before leaving the cider house. His simple definition of the perfect cider is “the absence of imperfections”.

We taste the cider that will be bottled during the week and when I mention how different Asturian and English ciders are, they explain that one of the reasons for this is that the carbonation of Asturian cider happens in the barrel and it is bottled after. Frutos cider is a well balanced natural cider. Sweetness, acidity and sourness are even, it is refreshing to the taste and it has a dry and clean finish.  

One of the most remarkable particularities of the Asturian cider is the way it is served. At sidrerías as well as at home, there is only one way to have the cider and that is pouring it from above. The ritual requires good practice, one arm holds the bottle upwards, while the other holds the glass downwards, pouring the drink in small quantities. This is known as “escanciar un culín”. The most important detail is that once you are handled the glass, you need to drink it quickly. The air bubbles and sparkling taste do not last long.

Sidra Frutos can organise “espichas” (a gathering with friends, traditionally held in the llagares –cider houses- when the first barrel was opened) under request. The best time for these celebrations is February and March, when the first barrels are being opened, so if you are in Asturias, do not hesitate to contact them.

Sidra Frutos
Barrio Friuz, 28
33314 Quintueles (Villaviciosa)
Principado de Asturias

(+34) 985 89 48 26
info@sidrafrutos.com

 

 
 

It is all about the tomatoes

The guys behind Con Raíz, a young organic farm in the heart of Asturias, know a thing or two about growing healthy organic tomatoes

Leer en castellano


The young couple behind Con Raíz, Lorena Veiga and David Puertas, believe in chemical-free agriculture. They both have Agricultural Engineer degrees and ethics is probably one of the main reasons why they are willing to share their tips to grow healthy organic tomatoes here on Foods from Asturias. 

As it often happens, Lorena decided to go for the farm life dream when she had had enough of unchallenging, non-motivational jobs. She admits that now she works harder than ever, being her role one that requires physical power. In return, she has never been happier at work. 

Lorena's eyes sparkle when she speaks about her tomatoes. People at her local farmers market, where she has a stall every Saturday (La Felguera, Langreo), didn't believe her at first when she assured them that she doesn't use any chemical pesticide or fertilizer. Two years on, the unique flavour and soft texture of her tomatoes have won her a well-deserved reputation, hers are likely the best tomatoes in the valley and at this point no one questions her organic approach.  

Lorena has agreed to share her tricks to grow her impressive tomatoes.  

One of the most reliable organic fertilizers she uses is nettle extract. She recommends using it "as soon as you plant the tomatoes, ideally around March/April" and adds "it really does make a difference". 

When the plant is around 40 centimeters tall, Lorena prunes the suckers. She does this to achieve nutrient-dense tomatoes. By pruning the suckers she allows the rest of the plant to get more sunlight, what makes more energy for the plant, which eventually means bigger, healthier tomatoes.

Another important point to consider is to stake the tomato plants so that they have a guide to grow. Lorena uses a plastic clamp to attach the plants to the cords that lead the tomatoes' way up. The clamps leave the plant some breathing space and are consistent enough to deal with the weight. 

When the plant has eight to ten tomato bunches, they cut the top of the main branch of the plant, so that the energy and nutrients go to the fruits instead of to growing the plant ad infinitum.

To fight the aphid they use another animal to kill it, an insect from the swaps family that basically eats the aphid. To fight the fungus they have tried two ways, one using bicarbonate, and the second, which they favour, using a mixture of milk and water. The proportion is two parts of milk for eight of water. The milk must be whole. Once it is well mixed, they spray it on the tomato plants, always during the day as these plants don't like to get wet and the sun dries them quickly. 

"Lately I have been using homeopathy" says Lorena, "it is very complicated, you need to know in which stage is the plant, the environmental factors..." She admits that her first try didn't work as she would have liked, she thinks because of the doses, "I need to understand it better, it takes time".  

Con Raíz deliver their nutrient-packed veggie boxes every Tuesday, which you can order online, or you can find them at the farmers market in La Felguera every Saturday. If you hurry you might catch the last tomatoes of the season! 

Con Raíz

Cuturrasu, Langreo