Cereza de Espadán
The Sierra de Espadán (Serra d’Espadà in Valencian) is a mountain range in the Province of Castellón, north of the city of Valencia. Since the Bronze Age, various peoples (including the Iberians, Romans, and Arabs) have made use of the area’s natural resources and left their mark on the landscape: Today, well-preserved mills, castles, aqueducts, and icehouses (pous de neu or neveras) are part of the cultural heritage protected within the 30-thousand-hectare Sierra de Espadán Natural Park.
Agriculture in the Sierra de Espadán focuses on the cultivation of olives (from which high-quality oil is produced), almonds, carob, and cherries. A variety of sweet cherry (Prunus avium), the Espadán cherry is also known as the cereza de Marzo (“Marzo cherry”), as it is believed that a local man with the nickname Marzo was the first to describe it, in the early 20th century. The trees grow in drylands up to 800 meters above sea level, especially around the villages of Aín and Artana. The cherries themselves are light red, with an exceptional, slightly acidic flavor, dense flesh, and a thick skin (which makes them easy to transport). They are best consumed fresh. In the past, the agricultural workers who moved throughout the region on a seasonal basis spent a month (usually June) harvesting cherries, before moving on to the cork groves, where they worked until early autumn. During the winter they harvested oranges. Small-scale fruit distributors called asentadores sold the cherries in the markets of Valencia and Castellón.
As agriculture has become mechanized and increasing emphasis has been placed on productivity, many of the orchards in the remote valleys of the Sierra de Espadán have been abandoned, and the higher-yielding burlat variety has largely replaced the Espadán cherry. Nowadays Espadán cherries are harvested only in small quantities for local consumption, and are almost impossible to find outside of the few villages where they grow. Due to its superior flavor and texture; its suitability for cultivation in dry areas at high elevation; and its historical importance to the local culture and economy, the Espadán cherry deserves protection and wider appreciation.