Chestnuts from Serrania de Ronda and Sierra de las Nieves

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Chestnuts from Serrania de Ronda and Sierra de las Nieves

The chestnut tree is a tall, long-lived species that has been found throughout Andalucía in southern Spain for hundreds of years, leading to an evolution caused by biological adaptation and human selection. Castanea sativa is a multipurpose species of major economic importance in the Mediterranean Basin. It is used both for its fruit and wood, as well as for its contribution to the landscape and other environmental values. Although there are other types of chestnuts in Andalucía, the area for chestnut groves in the provinces of Malaga is higher than 4000 hectares, of which 3800 hectares are located in Serrania de Ronda. Research has shown that the chestnut production system of this area is an excellent system for on-site preservation of genetic resources. The chestnut groves in Valle del Genal and Sierra de las Nieves have a multiethnic composition, which includes very old specimens that have remarkable value as unique trees to young trees that continue to be integrated. It should be noted that the genetic diversity in these trees is indigenous. The new shoots, given the climatic conditions of the areas, take only three to four years to begin to bear fruit. This short period of juvenility allows the farmers to wait to know the characteristics of the fruit before deciding whether to graft or not. The consequence of this type of management is the creation of a chestnut grove that consists of a mixed indigenous variety of a clonal nature and some trees with branches that are grafted with distinct varieties. This results in a system that has a high level of diversity and continues to adapt to the means and the demands of the farmers. Many of the main varieties used in the area carry in their name the term pilonga, a name that implies that the fruit is easily peeled, a highly valued quality for this species. Many of the varieties have the term bravia in their names. This term usually refers to spontaneous or wild trees, and it also corresponds to non-grafted trees. Because the chestnuts have a multi varietal composition, the harvest is collected in an undifferentiated way making it appropriate to establish a unique identification that groups this product. In Andalucía, chestnuts are handled as an agricultural crop that is worked approximately every two years. Harvest can be completed with a machine or the primitive yoke and plow. The custom of associating pig and sheep herds with chestnuts is a lost art that needs to be recovered, since, in addition to the support of the organic material, it also serves as a preventative of pest outbreaks (because these animals eat the pupae in the ground before the pests can grow and spread to the trees). According to experts who have visited the chestnut groves of Serrania de Ronda, it is one of the healthiest chestnut groves that can be found in Europe. The chestnut fruit that comes from this region only undergoes basic processing, such as sterilization of the chestnut fruit and the elimination of fruits with eggs or moth larvae and, of course, the packaging of the fresh chestnut. Other chestnut preparations, like chestnut syrup or other products, are not made with raw materials that come from Serrania de Ronda or Huelva, except in isolated cases of family businesses. The average production of chestnuts in the Serrania de Ronda is placed around 4,500,000 kg. There exists a large difference in the amount cropped yearly, especially during the years with low rainfall. In the Sierra de las Nieves, the average production is estimated at less than 227,000 kg of chestnuts. But the chestnut is suffering greatly, both in quality and quantity, due to the adverse weather conditions of recent years. These Spanish chestnuts can have a compromised future threatened by pests and disease, soil loss due to erosion, increased cost of labor, or abandonment of agricultural activities in rural areas. The chestnut tree also has also seen a significant reduction of its use as a source of food in the last half-century. The main uses of chestnut tree are its wood and fruit, but other indirect uses of the chestnut tree are honey source, mushroom harvest and involvement in livestock farming. The use of chestnut as a food source drastically decreased in the 19th century with the introduction of potatoes to the area. Chestnuts can be included in many culinary preparations: sweet or savory, whole or pureed. They contain carbohydrates that are slowly absorbed, and are thus suitable for everyone, including diabetics. They contain between 4 and 5% protein, twice the quantity found in potatoes and milk, and contain all of the essential amino acids. Chestnuts are also gluten-free, which makes them suitable for celiacs. Besides being the center of considerable biodiversity, the chestnut groves of the area fulfill other environmental services such as the conservation of soil, the sequestration of carbon, and a generation of especially beautiful landscape. The safekeeping of the biodiversity of the Andalusian chestnut groves can be used to revitalize the sector in those areas where it is still an economic activity and furthermore fulfill the objective of preserving this native food crop.

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Territory

StateSpain
Region

Andalucia