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

 
 

El Malaín

This berry orchard, located a few miles from Villaviciosa, is a paradise for slow-food advocates and anyone who enjoys pick-your-own farms

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El Malaín is a peaceful place where nature's rules are respected. A space to come to terms with modern times. A hidden slow-food gem, El Malaín is a three-hectares farm where you can collect organic blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries and red and black currants. 

The bells of the cows tinkling here and there while happily grazing in the surrounding fields or the birds singing are the only noise that will keep you company while hand picking the berries. The idyllic aisles of small trees, a far cry from supermarket's ones, are a true treat to your senses. Tasting the small fruits in moderation is permitted and the owners surely know why they allow it: few things are more rewarding than the simple act of picking your fruit and eating it. Pure harmony with nature. Effortlessly delicious. 

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Marta Serrano and Pablo Álvarez started their berry business 25 years ago. Originally from Ciudad Real and Astorga respectively, they fell in love with Asturias and decided to look for a place there to start a new life. They quitted their white collar jobs -decor and advertising- in Madrid and transformed the then grazing field in the berry farm we know today. "Getting people to know the fruits was the most difficult part" says Marta. Asturias' soil is optimal to grow berries, so much so that it is common to find wild berries in rural areas. However, up until recently they weren't sold at supermarkets and some people were not familiar with these small fruits. If you live in Britain it is likely that you have had Asturian berries since a high percentage of the region's production (in some cases over 90%) is exported, mainly to Britain. 

"Some people thought they were exotic fruits from faraway countries" comments Marta, and adds "it was hard to convince Asturians that the fruits were grown here and that is why we decided to open the orchard to the public, so they could see it". These days El Malaín is an institution among the berries connoisseurs in Asturias. Most of the people who visit are loyal Asturians who year after year go to El Malaín, but there are also off the beaten track adventurers who appreciate high-quality berries at reasonable prices. Furthermore, families are welcome and children truly love this place. The farm is family friendly and one of the must-do activities if you visit Asturias with children. 

Berries have become popular in recent times for their nutritional and medicinal properties. All the berries you can buy at El Malaín are highly nutritious but each has different properties:

Blueberries

They are good for prostate and eye health, to improve memory and to treat urinary tract infections.

Raspberries

They minimize the absorption of fat, their leaves may help to tone uterus (it is recommended to drink raspberry leaf tea during the last two months of pregnancy only) and it is believed to have some cancer-fighting substances.

Blackberries

They help repair sun-damaged skin (and luckily they are in season right on time for that), they help lower blood pressure, they contribute to a healthy gut as they contain insoluble and soluble fibre and they contain salicylic acid, which may help protect against heart disease.

Currants

They help regulate blood pressure, they protect against neuro-degeneration and cataracts and they are a great immunity-boosting tonic thanks to its mixture of vitamic C and antioxidants.

How does El Malaín work? The system they follow is very simple. When you arrive to the farm you get a plastic basket to place all the berries you take. It doesn't matter if you mix them because they are all priced the same. Once you finish your visit you go back to the tiny shop to pay. They also sell homemade jams, vinegars and juices.  And ice-cream. But their ice-creams deserve a special mention. Probably a whole feature. I am an ice-cream person, from Ruby Violet to Berthillon to Carapina, I have had ice-cream in every city I have visited or lived. Always. And these are unbeatable, the perfect balance of softness and silky consistency, an explosion of pure flavour. If you are in good health, I recommend you to have one when you get there and one before you go. Excesses sometimes do feel good. They only do raspberry and blueberry and they do it right. 

Once you have experienced the real thing, it is difficult to go back to the ordinary. Enjoy it while you can! 

El Malaín

San Justo, Villaviciosa  CP 33314

Opening times: June - September 10am-8pm

Frozen berries available throughout the year