Travels in Motril, Spain – Part 9
By Nancy Hartman of What’s Cooking America
Destino – Motril, Spain:
Green, the Color of Money: We were certain that this would be a beautiful 1.5 hour drive when we planned our trip, but it turns out for the next 116 kilometers, we would see nothing but a sea of greenhouses. The region we travelled through, from Almeria to Málaga, is of great agricultural importance because of its sub-tropical climate. The greenhouse farms that cover the landscape specialize in fruits and vegetables normally grown in South-America. Along the route the majority of the flat areas, hillsides, and even ocean cliff sides are dominated by greenhouses growing peppers, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, avocados, pears, mangoes, strawberries, and other fruit. I am thinking that I now know why Lennon wrote Strawberry Fields Forever while visiting this region.
The Almeria Provinces greenhouse region is a pocket of prosperity in Spain’s economy. These greenhouse farms supply the whole of Europe, Canada, and the USA with fruits and vegetables; especially during the winter months. This regions produces no less than two and a half million tons of vegetables annually, which adds up to more than
1,600m €. The green house surface area in the province of Almería ranks third in the world with China and Japan leading in surface area.
A sea of greenhouses as we drive on the highway to Malaga.
We stopped for lunch at the halfway point of our drive to Málaga, in a small town called Mortil. We turned off the Autovista and pointed the car toward the sea in search of some of these fresh fruits and vegetables that were growing all around us, and of course fresh seafood.
We parked the car along the street at the first clear parking place we found and walked to the main street and found the Bar Restaurante Puerto Chico. As we walked by the sidewalk table, I Glanced over a diner’s plate, and I could see they were being served a fabulous looking roasted fish. Hungry and decisive, I deemed this to be the place! We turned in and made our way to the back of the restaurant to find a table and settled in next to a family enjoying their Sunday dinner.
We glanced over the menu and almost unanimously selected the paella. We chose the mixta seafood paella for three, a tropical fruit salad, and my husband Matt ordered the pork dinner as seafood is not his favorite. His dinner arrived before the paella, but our tropical salad was ready for us to eat while we waited patiently for the anticipated Paella.
There’s A Monster In My Salad: The tropical fruit salad was simple slices of pear, kiwi, banana, wedges of orange, split stalks of sugar cane, and an odd looking fruit (similar in appearance to a banana slice, but speckled with black and a hard center core). I have not seen a fruit like this before and started to cut the tender fruit from the core and took my first bite. YUM! This fruit was sweet as pineapple, smooth and tasty like a banana, and mouthwatering as a mango. It was wonderful – I had found a new favorite fruit!
Monstera Deliciosa: Later that evening I began my search on the internet to discover what this fruit was. Thanks to the web site bostonfoodandwhine.com, I discovered the name, Monstera Deliciosa. It is a tropical creeping vine that is native to Mexico and Central America. It can grow up to 20 Meters long and has large, heart shaped leaves. This plant is commonly known as the split-leaf philodendron – A common houseplant.
If all goes well in its native environment, the plant flowers about three years after it is planted. As a house plant you should not expect it to flower, as that is a really rare occurrence. The fruit grows up to a foot long, is green, cucumber shaped, and has scales. The fruit takes 12 to 18 MONTHS to ripen enough to become safe to eat. You can only eat the fruit after it is mature. When it reaches maturity, the green outer green scales begin to fall off. After the mature fruit is picked, you can leave it out for a few days and the scales should start lifting, the inedible peel will fall off, and you will see the edible fruit hidden inside. The black flecks are the flowering part of the plant latent in the fruit and are safe to eat.
BEWARE, the unripe fruit contains Oxalic Acid in a form that, if eaten, causes immediate and painful irritation, swelling, blistering, and loss of voice – or in very rare cases, death! This particular vine is the ONLY edible fruit-producing member of the philodendron family. If you are looking for the Monstera Deliciosa, it is usually available between June and September, although I wish you luck in finding it as it is not a common fruit. I did not know anything about the fruit when I tried it and absolutely loved it. Do not be frightened to try it, instead educate yourself well, and good luck on your hunt of the elusive Monstera Deliciosa.
Mussels, Clams and Squid, Oh My! At last our paella arrived loaded with seafood, mussels, clams, octopus, little teeny weeny squid, prawns, and tender white fish. It was bright with saffron (obvious that the cook was not greedy with the precious spice). Even ordering just for three, we could have accommodated two more with the generous size paella pan that they brought out for us.
Mixed seafood paella – My favorite Spanish Seafood Paella recipe.
Also check out my Spanish Paella Dinner Menu which includes this recipe.
It was a fabulous lunch and when we thanked the chef and inquired about the delicious green fruit, he and I attempted to communicate with our sparse knowledge of each other’s language. In the end. the owner smiled, placed it in my hand, and sent me on my way to Málaga with my own Monstera Deliciosa. I would definitely recommend this outstanding fruit!
Categories:Travels in Spain