With the autumn and the first rains – which have been slow to fall this year – it begins in the Algarve, when the branches of the arbutus are filled with red and orange fruits, the harvesting season of the arbutus, the fruit from which the famous Aguardente de Medronho is made.
The arbutus is a spontaneous plant typical of the mountains of the Algarve and the south of the Mediterranean.
Its fruits, yellow, orange and red, appear in mid-October and November and look like wild strawberries, although rounder and rough in texture.
Those of red colour already mature are sweet and edible and even quite healthy because they have an antioxidant action.
The use of the fruit of the arbutus for fermentation and distillation or for the confection of jams is a practice that dates back many centuries throughout the mountainous area of the Algarve.
The distillation technique with stills originates in the Egyptian and Greek civilizations and usually takes place in mid-February.
The fruits are carefully collected, fermented in wooden kettles, after which, after some time, they are distilled in copper stills.
The quality of the fruit, its harvest, the care with the fermentation, the distillation and its time of duration, are some of the secrets of each producer. Secrets that are transmitted from generation to generation, so that the final product – the Aguardente de Medronho from the Algarve – is unique throughout the world and of unparalleled flavour.
A true gods’ nectar from the mountains of the Algarve, which you cannot fail to prove next time in the Algarve!
If you want to know a little more about the stages of the arbutus – picking, fermentation, distillation and bottling, just look here.