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Sayalonga, the pretty Axarquía village that is home to the níspero fruit festival. T.A.
Where the Costa del Sol meets the Costa Tropical
Travel

Where the Costa del Sol meets the Costa Tropical

Go east to find a fruit for every season and discover markets and restaurants where traditional muscatel grapes, almonds and olives are combined with locally grown mangoes and avocados

Jennie Rhodes

Axarquía

Friday, 22 December 2023, 17:55

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It is a universal truth that Spain produces much of the fruit consumed in the UK but of course it tastes so much tastier when it’s freshly picked.

Visit the Axarquía - on the eastern stretch of the Costa del Sol, which is home to popular coastal towns such as Nerja and Torrox and inland villages including popular Cómpeta and Frigiliana, as well as Granada province’s Costa Tropical with coastal resorts such as Almuñécar-La Herradura - for a year-round supply of seasonal fruit, making a trip to this part of Spain a particularly fruity one.

At any time of year an abundance of local produce fills local markets, greengrocer’s and supermarkets and mangoes, avocados, strawberries, cherries, olives and muscatel grapes...to name but a few...make their way into traditional and modern dishes and drinks in local bars and restaurants.

Spring

Strawberries may be synonymous with summer and Wimbledon in the UK, but here in Spain they (fresas) signal spring. While Cadiz and Almeria provinces are probably most famous for their ‘fresones (big strawberries), the small village of Algarrobo in the Axarquía is where the smaller, sweeter varieties are grown and can be found in the local ‘fruterías’ (fruit and veg shops) from around February or March through to May.

Loquat fruit, or nísperos, are another sign that spring is here and in Axarquía village of Sayalonga they celebrate the fruit on the first Sunday of May with Día del Níspero. The small, sweet fruit was first brought to Spain from Asia in the 19th century and has since established its place as one of the area’s favourites.

By the end of winter the area’s olive harvest is finishing and bottles of freshly pressed olive oil are available in local shops and straight from the oil cooperatives themselves. Riogordo, Periana, Torrox, Arenas and Alcaucín are the biggest oil-producing villages with each one being home to a press, producing some of the finest ‘liquid gold’ in Spain.

From top: Olive harvest in the Axarquía, avocado plantations are common east of Malaga and the grape harvest 2023. SUR / Bodegas Bentomiz
Imagen principal - From top: Olive harvest in the Axarquía, avocado plantations are common east of Malaga and the grape harvest 2023.
Imagen secundaria 1 - From top: Olive harvest in the Axarquía, avocado plantations are common east of Malaga and the grape harvest 2023.
Imagen secundaria 2 - From top: Olive harvest in the Axarquía, avocado plantations are common east of Malaga and the grape harvest 2023.

Summer

Come for summer and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Try peaches grown in Periana - they are so important that they also have a day dedicated to celebrating the fruit in summer. The delicious cherries from Alfarnate are able to grow there thanks to the village’s relatively cool climate. At 900 metres above sea level, the village produces some of the biggest, most succulent cherry varieties there are. The village also has a day to celebrate the fruit, although it takes place in spring to mark the cherry blossom when the village brings a bit of Japan to the streets and celebrates its unique bond with the country famous for Sakura (a flowering cherry tree).

Of course, the Muscat grape, whose harvesting methods go back centuries - in 2017 the technique was added to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) agricultural heritage list - making the Axarquía muscatel grape one of the most exclusive products in the world.

It is widely celebrated in the east of Malaga area as the harvest gets under way in mid-August and many grape-growing villages hold special days in its honour. Try the raisins which are widely available through the Axarquía area and of course the local sweet Muscatel wine produced with the grapes.

Autumn

Although the traditional produce of this area are grapes and olives, it is subtropical fruit like mangoes and avocados that are big business in the Axarquía and Granada’s Costa Tropical. Mango season starts in September and local chefs have developed all types of products, including mango liqueur and jam, and don’t be surprised to see mango in your salad at this time of year… the list goes on.

The avocado harvest starts slightly later than the mango one and different varieties start to fill the shelves in October.

The start of the olive harvest comes in November, when trucks full of the fruit get taken up to the olive mills for pressing. It’s also at this time of year that pomegranates - granadas in Spanish, like the city, which is said to have been named after a pomegranate tree - are harvested and appear in the shops. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and of course autumnal red colour, they are also added to salads and other dishes.

Winter

The olive harvest continues through winter, as does the avocado harvest, with different varieties ripening at different times. However, the most spectacular sight of winter in the east of Malaga area is the almond blossom in late January and February when hillsides and villages are peppered with the light-pink fragrant petals of another of the area’s fresh products.

With this year-round fruit salad, the Axarquía and Costa Tropical, from Malaga to Motril, are a fruit-lover’s and foodie paradise.

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