All of us who are blessed to live in the Algarve, especially during the pandemic, apart from the mild and relaxed climate, we can enjoy some big pleasure, such as buying 100% organic and 0 km citrus fruits, without spending exorbitant amounts of money as in the main European cities. Many many people are generally in favour of organic over intensive industrial agriculture, but not many are really aware of the advantages of a 100% organic diet.
In the past, the absence of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers was the norm rather than the exception, making our grandparents’ vegetable garden organic to all intents and purposes. Only natural fertilizers (such as horse dung, to name but one example) and home-made systems were used to protect crops from pests.
Farmers in the Algarve had huge know-how in methods of defending citrus fruits from pests, resorting to do-it-yourself solutions such as macerates of water, ammonia, and mackerel, which were placed in phrases hung on tree branches (examples can still be seen today in the region’s ‘pomares’).
Alongside these methods, which are more respectful of the plants and consequently of the entire eco-system, the development of the chemical industry applied to the agri-food sector has, over the last fifty years or so, become predominant, bringing with it very harmful effects on the environment and human health.
ORGANIC ORANGES ARE REALLY BETTER THAN CONVENTIONAL ONES?
Only organic citrus fruits are to be considered safe for your health from this point of view. Citrus fruits on display on the counters of any supermarket are often all the same shape, colour and size. This is absolutely unthinkable in nature: no citrus tree can produce identical fruit, with identical organoleptic characteristics and without ‘physical defects’.
The very negative aspect is that, normally, store-bought oranges have been washed, sprayed with substances to slow down natural deterioration, and are finally ‘polished’ so that an orange can reflect light almost like a mirror! That makes eating orange, lemons and limes peel not recommended and potentially harmful to human health, even though we used them largely to make orange juice, baking cakes and preparing cocktails.
But what’s the point of buying citrus fruits and wasting the peel, when the most beneficial part of the fruit is right there? The vitamins, flavonoids, fibers, and antioxidants compounds contained in citrus fruit are to be found in the peel (as it’s clearly explained in the article ”Nutritional Evaluation and Antioxidant Activity of Zest obtained from Orange (Citrus sinensis) Peels”.
It is true that organic fruits cost more than conventional ones, but they worth it. To know more about the pricing of organic fruits, you must consider several issues (read this article about ”10 reasons why organic food costs more”.)
Therefore, when making a fresh orange juice or you’re preparing a cake with lemon zest, we strongly recommend you to use only organic citrus fruits. Now there are more and more trustable certified organic producers in the Algarve. Check the list here.
HOW CAN I BE SURE THAT I AM BUYING REAL ORGANIC CITRUS FRUIT?
There are, and rightly so, many detractors who are very critical of the ”organic” concept, and many criticisms are made: ”certification cannot give a 100% guarantee,” ”controls on organic farms are few and far between,” ”organic is expensive and in times of economic crisis, people need affordable prices,” etc.
All these considerations should make us reflect, not to desist from taking the right steps towards organic transition, but to consolidate an effective and reliable system of controls, which will benefit those producers who have implemented the standards required by the legislation with commitment and passion. All of us will benefit from it too.
PRODUCING ORGANIC ORANGES IS THE NEW CHALLENGE FOR ALGARVIAN FARMERS
Besides the large offer of orange in the Algarve, we would like to dwell on a statistic that really made us think: nearly 80% of the national citrus production is located in the Algarve and only 20% in the other regions of the country. That means that Algarve is still growing orange using conventional farming.
Of course, we can’t ignore that orange producers, already plagued by a variety of problems, from the region’s endemic water shortages and the high cost of public water to the cumbersome bureaucracy and competition from large groups in the food industry, find themselves in an uncomfortable position (read more in Portugal’s residents’ article.).
GET TO KNOW REAL ORGANIC FARMERS in SILVES COUNTRYSIDE
If you are interested in finding out more about the production of organic oranges and citrus fruits, we will take you on a tour of Silves organic farms.
Immersing yourself in the beauty of a ‘pomar algarvio’ and tasting the best oranges in the world will be the best way to get back in touch with the land. Book our ‘Citrus Farm and Silves Food Tour’ and join us on a guided tour to discover the origin of citrus fruits in the Algarve, the varieties, the seasonality and taste them picking them directly from the tree!
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