A highly valued nut in Europe
The chestnut is an abundant nut in the north-western region of the province of Málaga, where the mountain climate is favourable for their growth. The majority of the production, almost four million kilos every year, comes from Valle del Genal, where there are aproximately 3.500 hectares used for the plantation of chestnut trees. The majority of the production of these chestnuts from Málaga are exported to Europe. The main destinations of this nut are Italy, France, Germany and United Kingdom, where the quality of the product is highly valued. The main region of production is in Serranía de Ronda, where there are two big cooperatives.
The most important one is located between Pujerra and Jubrique, although the one in Parauta also picks thousands of kilos every year.
The chestnuts from Málaga represent a main source of income for a lot of residents of this area of the province. Every year, a lot of families pick up this product in the beginning of autuum in lands that are very steep and difficult to access.There, the variety that is popularly known as ‘pilonga’—etymologically, the name refers to the nuts’ easiness to be peeled— is highly valued. The harvest time lasts barely a month and its ending is usualy celebrated with the popular roasting of chestnuts around the 1st of November or All Saints Day. In this holday, it is a costum to roast the chestnuts and eat them with anisset or, in villages like Pujerra or Arriate, with ‘misela’ (a traditional fortified wine). In this later village, they have been celebrating for a few years now not only the roasting but also the Holiday of the Chestnut, during the closest weekend to the beginning of November. During those days, the quality of this nut is celebrated and they offer tour visits to the chestnut museum. In the village of Yunquera, in Sierra de las Nieves, they also show off for having this nut, although it is not the most important on. Because of that, during the last days of Octuber, they celebrate the Holiday of the Wine and the Chestnut, where the nut shares the spotlight with the artisanal must.
The region that manufactures more chestnuts is Serranía de Ronda. Within this territory, it is very common in Valle del Genal. Specifically, the majority of its harvest can be found in the villages of Igualeja, Pujerra and Parauta. However, a lot of chestnut trees can also be found in other villages, such has Genalguacil, Jubrique, Faraján, Cartajima, Benalauría, Benadalid or Algatocín, among others. In Sierra de las Nieves there are also some important chestnut tree lands, like in the case of Yunquera, Ojén or Istán. It is more scarce in Axarquía, where there are bearly some lands left in the village of Alcaucín.
The harvest of the chestnut tree was intruduced to the Spanish peninsula by the romans, although its presence became important in the area of Valle del Genal in the 1950s. Nowadays, a lot of ancient chestnut trees can be found in the areas of Pujerra or Igualeja, which proves the decades of history that the chestnut has had linked to this region.
The chestnut is the main product harvested in Serranía de Ronda but that does not mean it is widely used in the cuisine of these villages. Despite this, some desserts and stews prepared with this nut can be found in some restaurants. However, it is become more and more usual to use the chestnut for sweet preserves, like the company La Molienda Verde, located in Benalauría, has been doing for decades. This cooperative manufactures the recipe of ‘marron glacé’, jams, chocolates or even chestnut in syrup.
The thick chestnut tree land in Serranía de Ronda is today not only the main source of income for a lot of families in Alto Genial but also the absolute protagonist of its landscape. The images that this mountainous are offers change colour and intensity depending on the time of the year it is visited. In autumn, its leaves turn into ochre before inevitably falling before winter, whereas in spring, green starts to appear in leaves to make way to the bright colour that the burrs containing the chestnut will have in summer.