This last few days has seen a welcome bit of snow up at Sierra Nevada. The resort has been heavily dependent on the snow cannons to date, but now with the last dump things are starting to look up and skiing conditions are set to improve.
There’s a bit more of the white stuff forecast for the end of the week and weekend, but along with most of Europe this has not been the best start to the ski season, with some sources reporting this is the worst start to the season since 1986.
The forecast lowering of the temperatures, however, will mean the freezing line is looking to descend from 2200m to 1600m, so the snow cannons will again be working full time to give us the best possible skiing and snow boarding conditions.
On the plus side, the good weather has meant a marvellous start to the year down here on the coast – just an hour and a half away it’s been nudging 22C today!
Ah well, they do say “There’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing”!
It just wouldn’t be right to have a category on local food and drinks without mentioning one of our key tropical fruits grown here – the Chirimoya, or “Custard Apple” (annona cherimola). In a nutshell – they have the consistency of a banana, but taste a bit like cold custard.
Sometimes spelt “Cherimoya” this pale green fruit is around the size of a large avovado, and is distinguished by its indented skin, with thumbprint sized hollows. Originally believed to be a native plant of Ecuador or Colombia, it has spread through the Andes and central America to Peru and Bolivia. It is now a key crop of the Costa Tropical, though is also grown in the north of Africa, souther Asia and American states with a similar climate such as parts of souther California.
The trees grow up to around 9m high – the fruit is harvested from mid October until late spring, with the beginning of the harvest being marked with the fiesta at Torrecuevas around 12 October.
While Chirimoyas are sometimes made into cold mousses or ice creams, the usual way to eat them is with a tea spoon. Simply slice in half, and then spoon out the creamy pulp, discarding the numerous black or dark brown seeds (in a large one there can be the thick end of a hundred so the development of new seedless varieties is eagerly anticipated by the catering trade..
They aren’t the world’s best for being shipped, as they tend to go from unripe to over ripe in a matter of a few days. You’ll struggle to find them in good condition in the UK – occasionally the likes of Waitrose will have them, but knowing now how good they can be it’s sad to report that they were never at their best when bought in the UK.
The taste does also tend to change depending on how ripe the fruit is – initially when still slightly firm and a paler colour they are more “pear-ish” (a lot of people describe them as having papaya, peach or faint pineapple tastes). When fully ripe they are more “custardy” – but soon go brown and start to ferment becoming inedible.
Chirimoya de la Costa Tropical de Granada-Málaga
Chirimoyas grown within the Costa Tropical region now have their own quality mark which is awarded to just two varieties – Fino de Jete and Campas.
These can only be grown in the prescribed areas of Motril, Salobreña, Vélez de Benaudalla, Los Guájares, Molvízar, Ítrabo, Otívar, Lentejí, Jete and Almuñécar in Granada Province, and Nerja, Frigiliana, Torrox, Algarrobo and Vélez-Málaga in Malaga Province.
Of these two varieties, Campas (named after it’s breeder in Rio Seco in the 1950s, whose name was Campos,) tends to be an earlier cropper staring in late September.
It is larger than Fino de Jete, weighing in between 300 grams to 1 kg for a large one, and has slightly under 10% of its bulk as seeds, though is less hardy being slightly more susceptible to cold weather.
Fino de Jete, however, is easier to grow and accounts for some 90% of local production and crops from Mid October to late February – so from a grower’s perspective is where the money is.
Per 100g, the average Chirimoya packs:
Iron – 0,7 mg
Sugars – 14 to 18 g
Vitamin A – 1 mg
Vitamin B – 0,08 to 0,1 mg
Vitamin B1 – 0,05 to 0,08 mg
Vitamin B3 – 0,5 to 0,8 mg
Carbohydrates – 23,71 g
Magnesium – 32 a 88 mg
Acides – 0,4 mg
Protein – 1 to 4,3 g
Zinc -0,2 to 2,7 mg
Potassium – 250 to 578 mg
Sodium – 4 -1 4mg
Calcium – 17 to 22 mg
Vitamin C – 22 to43 mg
Fibre – 1 to 3,2 g
Copper – 2.4mg
Soluble Solids – 22.3%
It’s fair to say that Chirimoyas are a bit like Marmite – you’ll either love them, or hate them.
For Julie, they’re just too sweet – Personally, I love them!!
We’ve been working hard over the festive season to bring even more options to you for your activity holiday accommodation choices. Over the past few months a few people have asked for more choices along the “B&B” lines – something a bit less formal than a full on hotel experience, but still with quality rooms, decorations and still close to the beaches and the old town.
Well, Julie has managed to find an absolute gem in Casa Roja – the Red House. This is a super casa, run by Manuela, her partner Alvaro and Kana the labrador.
All the boxes are ticked, as it is just 10 mins walk into the old town, and the same or slightly less to the beach and water-park. And, as always, with our activity holidays staying here we take care of all the transport to and from the activity sites, so you have no driving or parking worries while on holiday. The house is decorated superbly in a traditional Andalucian style, with local themes and colours used throughout. All the rooms have been named after the locally grown tropical fruits such as Chirimoyas, Granadas (pomegranates) and Mangos.
View to Pena Escrita from terrace
Living Room and view out to terrace
Terrace, Pool and view over Rio Verde
The house has a two floor layout, with communal areas in the upper level and the bedrooms and accommodation in the lower level. The living room is surrounded by a lovely terrace, from which you can enjoy the views of the tropical crops and the surrounding mountains. The spacious gardens of the house contain the swimming pool for summer use. There is also a barbecue area for your use while you stay – and you are also welcome to use the kitchen whenever you wish, which is well equipped with everything you need during your stay.
Casa Roja easily sleeps 14 px – with a further 2px able to be accommodated on sofa style beds. There are five spacious bedrooms, all air conditioned and decorated and finished to a high standard, with three of them having double beds with terrace (Granada, Mango & Aguacate), one of which (Granada) has a sofa bed so can accommodate 3px.
A further 2 twin rooms (Chirimoya & Papaya) are furnished with two single beds, and again one of these is also available with an additional sofa bed / folding bed for occupation for 3px.
There is also a further large “bunkroom” (Guayaba) which is fitted with with bunk beds. This sleeps up to 4 persons and is offered on a shared accommodation basis, or it may be reserved for dedicated use for children’s occupation or small groups subject to availability. This gives great flexibility as it is ideal for, say, two families with families as you can park all the teenagers in their own bunk room!
All rooms share two separate bathrooms: one of them with shower and a bath, the other with shower. Television is available in the living room, with some English channels such as BBC News, CNBC. Full tea & coffee making facilities as well as a large fridge are available in the kitchen, which is always available for your use.
The house is conveniently located in the Los Pinos area of Almuñécar, and has super panoramic views over the chirimoya fields in Rio Verde towards the mountains of Sierra de la Almijara and the Valley of Rio Verde, yet as mentioned is only a short 10 mins walk to the beach or old town – even less to the feria where the Friday and Sunday markets are held.
“Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat”, according to the old saying.
Well, they certainly will if they stuff all the turrón that is piling up in the shops ready for Christmas!!
Everywhere you go now the shelves are piled high with slabs and packets of delicious turrón, the result of the year’s almond harvest.
What is Turrón?
Turrón is an ancient traditional sweet from the Moorish times, and is thought to originally have been made just north of Alicante in a small town called Jijona.
Typically ingredients are local almonds, local honey – which depending on when harvested will influence the taste (as, for example, rosemary will give a slightly resinous flavour than local wild flowers), sugar, egg white, toasted whole or flaked almonds or other nuts. It is usually sold as either a rectangular tablet or in a more decorative round cake form. It is frequently consumed as a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain as well as countries formerly under the Spanish empire, particularly in Latin America, as well as Italy.
There are two traditional basic types of turrón. Soft Jijona or turrón blando, which is so smooth it has the consistency of peanut butter and hard Alicante or turrón duro, which is like a thick almond nougat candy, similar to peanut brittle.
And we’re not talking just a.n. other confectionery item here. Turrón is now a designated – like champagne – with EU law recognising there are just three designated areas which make the traditional product:
Xixona (PGI) (Valencian Community)
Torró d’Alacant (PGI) (Valencian Community)
Torró d’Agramunt (PGI) (Catalonia)
The basic recipe is made from almond paste, sugar, honey & eggs, with the addition of flaked nuts, chocolate, dried fruits, or other ingredients. Two main styles are popular : soft, or ‘blando’ which is akin to what is know as nougat in some countries, and hard, or ‘crujiente’ (these may also be labelled as ‘Jijona’ or ‘Alicante’ respectively).
To complicate matters there are also a series of quality designations:
Suprema – the best quality which for soft blends must contain at least 60 % almonds, the crunchy ‘Crujiente’ with at least 64% of hard almonds, then Extra, Estándar (or standard) and Popular (though it is usually the suprema, extra & crujinete variaties which are seen in shops).
Turrón with chocolate has a further three designations: Extra Fino, Fino and Popular which depend on the ratio of cocoa, cocoa butter and butter used. Other variations may have hard chocolate “flakes” within, fruits, nuts and raisins etc..
A new initiative has started to promote the area for diving, with a meeting between local councillor, Rafael Caballero, and representatives of the diving industry.
The initial meeting was held with dive clubs in La Herradura in order to start work promoting this sector of nautical tourism, to raise it’s importance and to ensure it is represented in the promotional calendar for 2016.
A promotional video is also being prepared in conjunction with local dive centres, with a view to screening it at travel and tourism trade shows and on the internet. This can only help raise the profile of the local area, boasting as it does some of the best diving sites for a long way (every day we get the diving schools from as far afield as Marbella, Fuengirola & Benalmadena travelling over 100km to dive here).
2016 Dive Shows
It is planned to kick start the promotions in Jan 2016 at the FITUR show, also promoting the news that La Herradura has again been chosen to host the European Underwater Photography Championship in October 2016. Snr Caballero continued that the Tourist Board will also make one of the areas or rooms in that tourism fair available for the presentation of this international event.
It was also announced that in February 2016, there are plans to participate in the Dive Travel Show exhibition in Madrid with a stand. It is intended to also showcase the local area and gastronomy, as well as the larger cultural aspects of the area. The fair is for dive professionals and is held in the “Crystal Palace” in the capital city, Madrid. In 2014 the fair featured some 110 exhibitors and attracted more than 12,000 visitors.
New local area SCUBA Diving guide
Finally, it was also announced that a dedicated guide book for local diving will be produced, detailing the local sites, access points, technical notes, expected durations etc. The guide will also feature a section featuring the wealth of fauna and flora that can be expected to be seen at each site. This is especially good news as some of our best sites are within the Cerro Gordo – Maro conservation area and boast superb soft corals, etc.
It is envisaged that this manual will also be able to be used as promotional material in other exhibitions and dive fairs. Let’s hope that, for once, the guide is produced in languages such as English, German, Danish, etc so it is useful for our international visitors.
Once again the Christmas medieval market will be taking place here in Almunecar on Paseo de Atillo – normally sited on the raised part in and around the tropical plants and trees overlooking the beach.
Dates this year are Saturday 5th to Tuesday 8th December to coincide with the extended “bridge” for the Constitution day fiestas. Opening times this year, according to the town hall, are for afternoons and on into the night, as we are told it will be running from 11:00 to 24:00, with a break at mid day. How long the break will be is unclear, but we suspect it will be normal siesta time from aorund 14:00 to 17:00 or so.
Early indications are that there will be at least 50 stalls and exhibitors. Visitors can expect to find a variety of hand crafted items, including incenses and natural soaps, fashion jewellery in silver, wooden articles and toys, games and puzzles, tarot card readers, wooden toys, puppets, cloth dolls, Aloe Vera products and typical regional charcuterie products.
There are also belly dancing displays and and an exhibition of local birds of prey, amongst other attractions – last year there was even a man powered wooden roundabout.
The local Alzheimer’s disease charity will also have a stand there so please support this most worthy cause if at all possible.
The official opening date has just been released today – it’s Saturday 28th November – so start sharpening those edges and waxing those bases.
The early opening is all down to the low temperatures we have have had for the last week. These have enabled the use of the artificial snow canons in the Borreguiles beginners area over the last couple of days.
Exactly how big the opening area will be won’t be known until Friday night, but today (Wed 25th) the pisteurs had already prepared nearly 2 kilometers around the ski chairlift at around Emile Allais and the Borreguiles carpet lift.
Access to the area will by the Borreguiles gondola lift, which runs to and from the resort of Pradollano. As usual, a reduced price lift pass will be offered of €20 (youth €18 & juniors €16) which will run until 2nd December.
Meanwhile, the artificial snow system will continue to run, depending on the temperatures, with snow production in adjacent areas being incorporated into the ski area.
The station will also open the Mirlo Blanco recreation area and also have a restricted piste for wooden sledges in the final stretch of the Rio piste available.
Finally, as a bit of a bonus, underground parking in the Plaza de Andalucía car park will be free until December 2, 2015.
The 2016 World Cup Freestyle Aerials are slated for night time Saturday 27th Feb here in Sierra Nevada. Artificial lighting will be in place along Crescendo piste, with the final lead off running towards the square at Pradollano. The event will be covered by live television broadcast, and with the usual light shows and sound systems will be fantastic show!
The aerials will include three different ramps, to give jumps up to 12 metres, which will be a superb spectacle especially as it will be sited right next to the village
This means that for the 2015 / 2016 season some 15 national plus 40 regional competitions will be held.
Youth development has not been forgotten, with children of 5 to 12 years old getting a new exclusive training area next to Parador / Cauchiles (by the Virgen de las Nieves ski lift).
2017 FIS SnowBoard and Freestyle Ski World Cup
Sierra Nevada has also been chosen by the FIS to host World Cup skiing in 2017. The station has already invested heavily in building a world class snow park in Sulyaires and this investment has now paid off big time.
The World Cup competition, as far as we can gather at the moment, will be split between the snow park, and a second “urban” venue just by the bubble lifts right next to Pradallona village.
The ski station has almost all the venues ready for the World Cup 2017, which will coincide with the “Universiade” which starts on 4th February.
Disciplines will include Big Air (snowboarding), Aerials (freeski), Half Pipe, snowboarding, parallel slalom, aerials, slope style, Snowboardcross, half pipe and big air. The freestyle mogul disciplines will include slope style , Ski-cross, half pipe and aerials.
Not the world’s most expensive mini pump but this little fellow packs a good punch. The stroke is around 21cm / 8″ so you can get a decent amount of air through it with each pump stroke, unlike some smaller versions. Only just over 8″ (22cm approx.) collapsed (16.5 ” / 40cm extended) and around 3.5 oz (99 grams) so it fits easily into your back pack or pocket in your jersey, unless you want to frame mount it.
The body and most parts are good quality aluminium alloy, with a plastic main handle. The schrader / presta head is the usual “unscrew the collar and reverse the collet inside” style fitting, and with an alloy lever clamp it attaches quickly and securely to the valve.
Another great feature is the built in gauge, which seems pretty accurate every time we have used it (around the 45 – 65 psi range) but is rated up to 100 psi – though as this is a compact pump it would need a bit of time to get up to that kind of pressure. That said, there’s definitely enough “oomph” though to easily re-inflate after a puncture and to be able to finish your ride.
For ease of use it is best to grasp the valve end with your left hand and also grip a fork leg or stanchion at the same time. This helps stabilises the valve end, and you can then get a good rhythm going with the pumping without stressing the valve stem too much – it only takes a minute or so to re-inflate a tubed MTB tyre once you get going.
A good little mini pump, with the added benefit of an accurate gauge.