Food and Drink Life in Spain

Sat 8 Mar 2014

Who is the world’s largest exporter
of strawberries? Why, it’s Spain, of course. Some 285 thousand tons of fresh
fruit leave these shores annually, bound for European countries and the rest of
the world. Some 90% of this production is grown around Huelva, a city in
south western Spain, in the autonomous region of Andalusia.

People have lived in the area since
3000BC and Huelva claim’s to host Spain’s oldest football club – Recreativo de
Huelva, though it cannot be that old.

The strawberry industry is said to
generate in excess of 500000 thousand euros in revenue for the country, and
continuing strawberry success despite difficult economic times, has forced many
Spaniards to return to strawberry picking for their income. However, they face
stiff job competition from low paid immigrant pickers. Last year some 65000
women from eastern Europe and north Africa were hired. All pickers need to
beware though, because Japan has developed a strawberry picking robot. Its
special cameras detect the colour of ripe fruit, and pick accordingly.

There is a benefit for the women of
Huelva though. Apparently the divorce rate climbs at the end of the picking
season, when many of their men have become infatuated with attractive immigrant
pickers. The men will surely not be as enchanted with the robotic pickers of
the future.

So, which countries are the biggest
strawberry lovers? Well France is certainly well up the list. It takes around
75000 tons of fresh Spanish strawberries annually. Germany tops the list,
buying some 90000 tons each year.

In recent years, production has
increased by 18% annually, and this has encouraged Spain to look around for new
markets. A toe hold has been established in Asia, but business levels remain
relatively small with exports totaling just 6 tons last year. It’s a start
anyway. It’s a similar story with Russia and the Eastern Bloc countries. They
are starting to show interest in fresh Spanish strawberries, and undoubtedly
sales with gradually blossom there too.

Why are strawberries so popular?
First they taste truly wonderful, and they signal that summer’s on the way.
Then, they are very good for your body. Just one handful of strawberries
(around 9 or 10) provide less than 30 calories; 0.1g fat and no cholesterol;
less than 10g carbohydrates; oodles of vitamin C; 20% of the daily recommended
intake of folic acid; lots and lots of fibre; along with high antioxidant

A highlight of a trip to the local
market is to see stallholders set out their strawberry stocks, plied high on
plastic trays. Then with a small plastic spade, they fill a bag with the
quantity of fruit that you want to buy. Driving home with the strawberry smell
impregnating the car is the highlight of the morning, giving those taste buds
an intense work out.

If you have not read our blog
regarding Spanish Cherries this is also worth a read! Spanish

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