Eating Locally in Spain

Thoughts on the Local Food Movement and Its Practice in Spain

I had the pleasure of spending two years living in beautiful Amherst, Massachusetts while attending the University of Massachusetts. This small college town is surrounded by farmland and forests and is a food lover’s haven when it comes to quirky farmer’s markets, pick your own crops (berries, pumpkins, apples, etc.), and a variety of restaurants focused on sustainability. In Western Massachusetts the local foods movement is alive and well—sometimes to the point of excess when people start giving you the evil eye in the supermarket for choosing to buy strawberries off season, or claiming to only eat “heirloom” tomatoes. I am a big proponent of eating locally, but had to laugh when a restaurant patron once asked me (a waitress at the time) if the chocolate used in the sacher torte was local! I assume they were confusing the term with certified fair trade, because it’s quite clear that there are no cocoa trees in the forests of Massachusetts!

Beautiful multicolored carrots in Amherst, MA

I love the ideas behind the local foods movement and try to buy local foods whenever possible. I also think that children should grow up learning to eat seasonally. As a child I didn’t even question the fact that in the middle of December Mom would buy mangos at the supermarket. It didn’t occur to me to ask where they were from or how they arrived at my local Stop and Shop. It has only been by living in Andalusia that I have began to memorize the seasons of various fruits and vegetables. In Seville it was often difficult to find anything off-season—and if you did it was obvious from its sky-high price. That’s one thing I loved about living there; you may not have a wide selection, but what you get is likely delicious, fresh, and locally grown.

Here in Madrid I definitely notice a big difference in the fruit and vegetables available to consumers. The supermarkets seem to carry almost everything year round, similar to where I grew up in the US. I think that the key to finding good produce in Madrid is to discover and trust your local frutería. These small shops should be able to tell you what is in season and where their produce comes from.

Do you make an effort to eat locally? Do you have any restaurant recommendations in your part of the world?

Try testing your knowledge of seasonal produce (a vague guide to the Northern Hemisphere)!

What is the season for…

Pumpkins? Fall/Winter
Chestnuts? Fall
Strawberries? Spring/Summer
Blueberries? Late Summer
Apples? Fall/Winter
Lemons: Winter
Asparagus? Spring/Summer
Peaches? Summer
Tomatoes? Late Spring/Summer/Early Fall
Potatoes? Summer/Fall/Winter
Oranges? Fall/Winter

How did you do?

Click for more information about seasonal foods!

Slowfood España (In Spanish)

Comments

  1. I’ve also learned a lot about eating locally and seasonally thanks to living in Andalusia. A Spanish friend of mine from Madrid said it was also a bit difficult for her to get started on it, but overtime learned from the people at the fruit shops (love me some fruit shops!!). What she came up with was that the more starchy veggies and fruits (such as yams and pumpkins) tend to be winter foods because our bodies need the extra calories to protect us from the cold. The more watery veggies and fruits (think watermelons and tomatoes!) are to keep us hydrated during the hot summer months. It’s also amazing to me how much BETTER fruits and veggies taste out here!

  2. I’ve been thinking a lot about eating locally and seasonally in Spain. Like you, I didn’t grow up knowing my food seasons or the importance of eating locally but California is a sustainable food haven. I’ve learned so much in the last few years (sometimes I feel the same about others being critical, it can be excessive of “how sustainable/local” are you in the SF Bay Area).

    Unlike Sevilla, In Almeria and Roquetas, Seasons don’t exist here.Interesting to know that not all of Andalucia has never ending “food seasons.” The supermarkets and the fruterias have everything and the local Thursday market has every veggie and fruit you can imagine. THe varieties don’t seem to exist (as I’m used to in California) but the eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers are in abundance right along side the pumpkins, cabbage and broccoli. I recently spotted Kale. (I was very excited) but out of 15 vendors selling the same produce, I only saw it in one place and only a few. I miss eating in season and being in tune with nature.

    I’m guessing the abundance of all produce year round is because I live in the heart of the invernaderos where everything is grown year round to export to the rest of Europe. And the fact, the weather is mild. It’s almost always sunny in Almeria!

    1. I never thought about never ending food seasons– interesting! In one way its awesome, but I can see how you miss being in tune with nature. I love seeing something new when it first comes into season and getting all excited to cook with it! But don’t take sunny Almeria for granted, you’re so lucky to enjoy the warmth year round.

  3. In Galicia, most often if it wasn’t in season, you couldn’t find it. And if you could, the quality was questionable. Here in Puerto Rico, stuff not in season is also insanely expensive which as forced me to eat what’s good now. $8.00 for a small thing of blueberries? Never. But $0.50 mangos and aguacate are a pretty good deal!

  4. I was so sad when I first learned the fresh, briny olives had a season. I’d buy a kilo for two euros, and they were the best olives I’d ever eaten. (Probably always will be.)

    I love how the concept of “eating locally” is just the norm in much of Spain, however much the supermarkets have done away with it. (Obviously, Carrefour still has tomatoes, and they always seem to be the same price.) It’s refreshing, and people from home think I’m joking when I tell them, seeing as eating “local” foods is the new in thing.

  5. The good thing about where I live in Spain is that “eat local” is not a conscious movement, but just what has always happened. If you eat fish here in Northern Spain, you definitely notice the seasons too!
    Food was very very seasonal in all my childhood and growing up: “3rd” world countries do not have the refrigerated lorries running around delivering off-season products.
    It is funny though that even in tropical countries like Malaysia (my mum’s), the weather remains the same but many (though not all) fruits and veg have a season.

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