A few kilometres far from the city of A Coruña we can find an authentic universe full of rural flavour. As Mariñas, a territory that has the declaration of Biosphere Reserve, is a hotbed of initiatives that work and value quality products. And they do it from creativity, innovation and sustainability.
Not too far from the Cecebre Forest, the one that inspired the famous book The Animated Forest by Wenceslao Fernández Flórez; we found one of these initiatives where the product is a declaration of love for the land. Os Biosbardos, cultura de leira is a project that works faithfully following the principles of permaculture, seeking a model where care for the planet, people and the commitment to return any surplus to the system, closing the circle. Another of its references is syntropic agriculture, based on the maxim “plant what you need where you need it.”
When Miguel Ángel Roig decided to change his professional activity and start working in agriculture, he was clear from the beginning that his model would bet on outdoor cultivation, with an ecological certificate and following the principles of permaculture. “What made the most sense to me was creating food forests, starting a 100% sustainable agriculture model,” he says.
With these ideas as a starting point, the main challenge was to implement a project of certain dimensions, on an area of 5 hectares. “We did some initial calculations and a project, but we did not find any success stories similar to what we wanted to do, it was all on a small scale”, says. Thus, he works with his sights set on being able to scale the model in a viable way and, from there, “disseminate what is being learned.”
The “food forest” model in which Os Biosbardos works is committed to creating an ecosystem in balance through the combination of different species and varieties of plants. It is, in a way, to imitate the functioning of ancestral forests, where some species develop thanks to their interaction with the rest of the elements of the place. “What we did is try to simulate this, but with species and varieties of food plants that give us value”, says.
This “food forest” is made up of different strata that allow various complementary uses on land located in the Lendoiro area, in Cambre, where the project has an area of 5 hectares. According to Roig, they are working in the different strata, cultivating and experimenting with the coexistence of species such as avocados, walnut trees and citrus fruits such as linkuat, kumquat, Buddha’s hand or citrus caviar, highly valued in the field of restoration.
The “food forest” in which Os Biosbardos works is committed to creating an ecosystem in balance through the combination of different species and varieties of plants
The lower stratum is dedicated to cultivating orchards, with seasonal products that Os Biosbardos offers for sale through various channels. Its clientele is made up of the general public (it does direct sales and has an online store), neighbourhood stores and catering establishments.
Despite being a new project, born two and a half years ago, Os Biosbardos have things clear. In addition to respect for the principles of permaculture, other key points are in collaboration, weaving networks and taking advantage of synergies; as well as in the experimentation and dissemination of the knowledge generated. In fact, Roig is involved in another similar project in the Valencian Community, his territory of origin. “There we are creating food forests with another concept and other species”, says.
The first organic tea in Galicia
Another creative, innovative proposal and the fruit of love for the land is Orballo: an initiative born in Paderne and that revolves around aromatic plants grown organically, both in spices and teas. According to the person in charge of Communication, Óscar Torres, in each product “high quality raw material” is selected and always free of pesticides and herbicides.
“As lovers of the earth that we are, we try to do everything in the most respectful way with people and the planet, always putting people’s health first and above all the health of the planet, which in the end is the same“, he says.
Orballo was born in 2012, as a project linked to the planting of native trees such as chestnut and the production of aromatic plants. Little by little the initiative evolved and currently has a wide variety of infusions, spices and aromatics.
“As lovers of the land that we are, we try to do everything in the most respectful way for people and the planet,” says Óscar Torres, from Orballo
Torres claims that Galicia is a “privileged place in the world” in terms of the quality of its land. Starting from this quality Galician product, it is committed to innovation, adapted processes, the generation of a brand and added value as ingredients in order to “create something that modifies the way of understanding rural areas”.
An example of innovation carried out by Orballo was the production of the first organic tea in Galicia, achieved through research together with the Areeiro Phytopathology Station and the University of Vigo. Torres recalls that the camellia is the “flagship flower of Galicia” and that, however, the community did not take into account the possibilities of this plant for the production of tea (which is made with the Camellia sinensis leaf).
Creative gastronomy workshop
The quality product, research, collaboration and creativity in the presentations are some of the characteristics that best define the gastronomic proposals that Paula Patiño prepares in Cambre with the brand Acastrexa.
In her creative gastronomy workshop he makes long-lasting preparations, juices, jams and sauces in which tradition is mixed with experimentation in new flavours, textures and aromas. A great defender of the quality of the Galician product, he cites the specific case of the onion varieties from Betanzos and chata de Miño, which he considers “among the best in the world”.
Patiños’s food craft proposals seek to create healthy and wholesome foods differentiated from the traditional offer. They are normally appreciated by demanding consumers, with an “educated palate” and receptive to new experiences. Physalis jam with herb liqueur, cornmeal cookies and sauces made with hot peppers are some of her proposals.
It also produces more sophisticated but equally healthy options, as is the case with its product Acastrexa 5-8: a cous cous made with corn -that also includes shiitake and spices- that is prepared just by pouring hot water and waiting between 5 and 8 minutes. It is fat-free, has no salt, and is suitable for vegans. An innovative proposal that achieved a very good result in the last European vegan International V-Label Awards: out of a total of 577 participants, it was ranked 19.
Acastrexa works from experimentation and generation of knowledge in its constant search for quality, new flavours and textures
Patiño works from experimentation and generation of knowledge in his constant search for quality, new flavours and textures. Not only does it look for the most suitable varieties of product for each preparation, but when it comes to picking them up, it also takes into account the best time to do so (depending on the state of ripeness, size and time of day when harvest is made).
But this experimentation and the generation of knowledge do not end in the selection and harvest, but it is also in the production process itself: the cooking times, kneading techniques and many other factors to study and analyze.
In this project, Patiño goes hand in hand with local producers, getting to know them personally, working hand in hand and looking for synergies. “For me the farmer is very important. Many times it is a figure that sounds to be behind, but for me it has to go in front”, assures. It also highlights the work with agroforestry experimentation entities, such as the CFEA of Guísamo, with which it has developed several initiatives.
Los Biosbardos, Orballo and Acastrexa are based on lands that are part of the Mariñas Coruñesas and Tierras del Mandeo Biosphere Reserve, a territory that seeks to harmonize the conservation of biological and cultural diversity and economic and social development through the relationship of people with nature.
In the case of Mariñas Coruñesas and Tierras del Mandeo, it covers a total of 17 municipalities in the province of A Coruña: Abegondo, Aranga, Arteixo, Bergondo, Betanzos, Cambre, Carral, Coirós, Culleredo, Curtis, Irixoa, Miño, Oleiros , Oza -Cesuras, Paderne, Sada and Sobrado.
The three entrepreneurial projects are within the brand created in this reserve with the aim of distinguishing agri-food products aligned with the values of this figure of the territory. It is, therefore, recognition of their commitment to quality, the guarantee and origin of the products, responsibility and respect for the environment.