The Citrus Fruits from La Vega Baja Region
Citrus fruits have certain properties that make them one of the healthiest types of fruit around. Thanks to their high percentage of water content, they are low in calories and because of high fibre they assist intestinal transit. In addition, they contain Vitamin C and E which are antioxidants that protect you against the flu, colds and free radicals responsible for cardiovascular and other degenerative diseases.
Watch out for grapefruit! They are very good for the prevention cancer and are an excellent cholesterol and blood pressure regulator; they contain substances that inhibit the oxidation of so-called “bad cholesterol” as they stop it from forming a deposit on the walls of blood vessels, preventing atherosclerosis. It is also the only citrus fruit that can be consumed by diabetics without any restriction.
Among other fruits with medicinal properties, Citrus fruits represent an exceptional healthy option and residents in the area of La Vega Baja (that actually means “Low-lying fertile land”) are very lucky to have them growing there during 9 months of the year. The orange and the Clementine season last from the end of summer until the beginning of the following summer when the harvest of other wonderful fruits such as the melon and watermelon start, but we will speak about those another time.
A WHOLE VARIETY OF CITRUS FRUIT
Alicante citrus fruit production has become characterised by the availability of different varieties to cover a differentiated demand in line with the markets. New varieties ensure the lengthening of the sales period of citrus fruit.
The harvest season of The Vega Baja’s citrus fruit starts in September and finishes in June each year. The season starts with the harvest of the early varieties of Oranges and Clementines.
The Oranges are harvested at the end of October and June. There are numerous varieties of oranges with their own characteristic flavour, juiciness, size and growing conditions. There are two general groups of oranges in terms of flavour. Sweet oranges from Valencia are eating
oranges par excellence. Bitter oranges, which have a sharp taste, are used to make marmalade and jams and for obtaining essential oils.
The first harvest of oranges, Navelina y Newhall, it happens at the end of October. From February to May, it is the time of the best varieties of oranges, the season of the “start” oranges, which include Nave-late, Lane-Late, Nável Powell varieties. Finally, right at the end of the season it takes place the harvest of the Valencia-late orange (from May until June).
Clementines are harvested between the months of September and February. Their small size, aromatic flavour and easy-to-peel skin means that they are one of the most highly valued and easily marketed fruit products in the world.
The first harvest takes place in September when it is possible to find the Clemenrubi, Marisol, Oronules y Mioro varieties. However, the best ones are found later in December. It’s then when the varieties that stand out become available. These are the Orogrande, Clemenules y Clemenvilla. Later on, in February and until May, it’s the time of the Hernandina, Nadorcott, Ortanique y Fortune varieties.
And, what we would do without lemons! They are essentially used as a garnish for other fruit and in dishes and culinary preparations. Thankfully, they are available throughout the year due to the lemon tree blossoming so many times each season. Examples of lemon tree are the Fino and the Verna varieties.
Finally, the harvest of the grapefruit goes from November until May when the varieties Marsh, Red Blush, Star Ruby can be found.
The figure that appears below illustrates the calendar of harvest for some of the Vega Baja varieties that we have mentioned as well as others present in the Valencian Region.
Our citrus fruit trees enjoy the benefits of the Vega Baja Region’s micro-climate which is ideal for the production of high quality citrus fruit. Thanks to the effort of the local farmers, and the perfect climatic conditions-warm throughout the night and hot during the day, the Vega Baja’s citrus fruit have a unique set of characteristics not found anywhere else in Spain.
Our production occurs at latitude characterised by shallow alkaline and loamy soils. There is a warm Mediterranean climate with an average rainfall between 250 and 650 mm per year. These facts as well as the type of water used in the production, which has certain level of salt, are the secret of the quality of our citrus fruit, as they allow the fruit to attain the ideal acidity value and just the right sugar level, giving them an unmistakeable flavour and quality. The quality achieved is remarkable, notably higher than that obtained in other regions, where the soils are of better quality and the rainfall is higher. There are no citrus fruits with the same colour, freshness and flavour anywhere else!
Farmers work hard to ensure that the fruit meet standards of safety and quality demanded by the current market. In order to do this, both their products and their processes are subject to quality controls in accordance with current legislation, regulations and demands of the countries they are exported to.
THE VEGA BAJA’S CITRUS FRUITS, MAXIMUM QUALITY AND FRESHNESS
The international prestige enjoyed by Valencian citrus fruit is based on the strict quality controls in place imposed at each stage of the production process; in the fields, in the preparation and packaging stage, through the cold logistics chain right up to the point of sale.
The quality of our citrus fruits is considered to be among the best in the world thanks to their production and handling protocols. They comply with all international quality and health safety standards to control and avoid the use of pesticides residues, genetically modified production techniques, seed selection, etc.
Being objective, I think that we take such care of the harvest that sometimes we do not make a profit, and occasionally even make a loss. The truth is that, government subsidies are in many cases what keeps the business running.
That’s the reality of the Citrus fruit sector! The low market prices force farmers to search help to face increasing production costs including wages, water, fertilizers, maintenance, etc. while the sale price often becomes lower and lower. During the last 10 years, the selling price has dropped tenfold while the maintenance costs of the citrus grove have risen by tenfold; these are worrying figures that show the difficult situation of the industry.
There are so many varieties on offer at certain times of the year that there is sometimes an excess of fruit on the market. These results in a drop in the price paid to the farmer. Only the limited and controlled production of certain varieties, such as the Nadorcott and Queen, between January and March, when the offer is less, are exempted from this rule. They have higher prices ie. 0,60-0,80 € Kilo Nadorcott.
We like to see ourselves as farmers of a region that are proud of our experience, knowledge and enormous sensitivity towards our local fruit. In other words, could the citrus production survive without the commitment of the local farmers?
Nowadays, the farmer of La Vega Baja is still devoted to the citrus production and wants to keep the well-deserved fame of the local citrus where it should be.
The dream of the producer is to export the local citrus fruits, the result of their work and effort, to the most remote places in the world, to turn them into an internationally well-known product, unique in their range by their unique flavour, freshness and smell, right in the place that it deserves.
Carlos Alonso Sierras
Local Citrus Fruit Farmer at La Vega Baja