Seeing all the beautiful pictures from the cherry blossom in Japan got me thinking of the delicious cherries from Fundão and whether it would be possible to see their flowers blooming. This spring turned out to be colder and rainier than usual and the blossom seemed to be late everywhere. But having into an account that Fundão is just an hour away from Penha Garcia, the village of my husband where we spent Easter, we decided to give a try to the cherry blossom in rural Portugal.
As I wasn’t sure whether I’d see the blossoms just from driving on the country roads, therefore a I booked a free visit to an orchard – Quinta da Porta.
The days before were so dull and rainy that we only could hope for good weather today, but the skies were blue and sun was shining, so the day looked promising.
When we entered the orchard, the blossoms didn’t seem very impressive, we weren’t sure what to expect at all.
We were met by the kind José. We drove on his jeep to explore the inner orchard and the variety of not only cherries, but peaches as well. How beautiful were the pink peach blossoms on the background of the green valleys and clear blue skies.
Of course these trees are used for fruit production, so they aren’t the gigantic blossom trees you might have seen in pictures, but this didn’t make the experience less serene. If you just stop there for a moment and concentrate on the beautiful blossom, you’ll definitely feel this almost lost connection with nature from living too long in the city.
During the blossom tour we learned a little bit about the production of the fruit and the struggles of the producers. First it was the early heat from last year that made the peaches ugly looking and undesired from the supermarkets, then the drought, but this March they were blessed with rain and their water reserves finally filled. On the other hand because of the rain and unusually chill weather the blossom was mostly late. These problems are real, because the trees just sit there under the open skies in wind, rain, heat and cold with no greenhouse to protect them. This vulnerability gives them the sweet taste though. José told us that they make home delivery and have a lot of repeat clients.
I’m sure I’ll be a client too. Especially after understanding that he truly cares about the environment and enlightening us about the so called “biological production” . He shared that each country in the EU has their own standards and the Portuguese are so high, that it almost makes it impossible to produce organic fruit that can compete at the supermarkets with the ones from Spain and Northern Europe. I always suspected some kind of fraud, but I wasn’t sure. But they do use sustainable production principles and are certified by GLOBAL GAP (Global Partnership for Good Agricultural Practices), one of the most strict recognized standards in the world.
After the tour we talked a little bit more and he showed us some more local products they sell like cherry tea and infusion, olive oil, olive oil soaps, cherry liqueur chocolates and others. Needless to say I bought some tea for myself.
I think a visit of an estate like Quinta da Porta can enhance one’s experience of exploring rural Portugal. José shared that they soon plan to open a turismo rural – their own countryside accommodation. So I’ll stay tuned for more news.
It was midday and we asked him for advice on where to eat. The restaurant he recommended was on the other side of Serra da Alpedrinha hills. I’ve read that it’s covered in snow white in Spring by the cherry blossom. As the blossom was late due to unusually chilly weather, this wasn’t the case. Nevertheless we enjoyed the scenery that sometimes revealed fields with olive trees and carpet of white, yellow and purple flowers.
On a normal working day the restaurant in the village was full, it must really be good we thought. When in the villages I always like to order lamb or goat. The lamb chops were delicious, especially with the mustard honey sauce on top. The house beefsteak was also very well done. Worth the wait, probably about 40 minutes, enough time to get really hungry.
Both desserts – chocolate mousse and cookie cake were very tasty with just enough sweetness.
After this pleasant experience we headed back to our village. On the way I was looking to Serra da Estrela and suddenly noticed a field of cherry blossoms that looked old and were very full. We stopped to enjoy the view – the white cherry blossoms on the foreground of the landscape and Serra da Estrela covered in snow on the background.
This view made our trip complete.
Where to stay in the vicinity
Penha Garcia village is about an hour away, plus it’s next to Monsanto for a combined visit. The most beautiful rustic accommodation is Casal da Serra, that belongs to my husband’s cousins.