Valle del Jerte – or the Jerte Valley as it’s known in English – is a playground for nature lovers. If you’re looking to avoid the tourist trail and explore untapped Spain, you’ll discover the essence of the country in this picturesque location, which is a two and a half-hour drive from Madrid on some of Europe’s finest and quietest motorways.
Ever since the 1950s, Brits have flocked to Spain for a guaranteed dose of sun and sangria. Many of us have visited the country’s south coast at one point or another and some may have hopped over to Barcelona or Madrid for a weekend helping of culture and churros. However, rural Spain has always been an overlooked option for me – until recently. A couple of weeks ago I was very lucky to explore the heart of Spain, following a blogger competition I won this summer, hosted by Spanish cherry growers, Picota.
You can find out more about the first part of the trip here Jerte Valley – Part 1: Plasencia.
Located half-way between Madrid and the Portuguese border, the terraced slopes of the Jerte Valley stretches over 50 miles. The cherry tree is an authentic emblem of the area not just because of its beauty in spring and autumn but also because of its productivity. The locals are proud of their roots, and rightly so, and as a result you’ll find the cherry icon adorned for all to see.
At the beginning of spring, thousands of cherry trees reveal a spectacular and fragrant bloom, lighting up the entire valley in hues of soft pink and white pastels. This blossom turns into delicious red cherries and is where the gorgeous Picota cherries are harvested between June and July.
Below: A Picota cherry tree in the autumn sky
When the valley isn’t wrapped in cherry blossom, other fruit trees such as peaches, figs and oranges flourish. In the autumn there are countless woodlands with chestnut trees and clear and effervescent waterfalls woven throughout the valley’s fabric.
Last week when we visited it was very quiet and as we explored the region we saw the occasional cherry farmer, pruning and tidying their orchards in time for winter and the coming season. *Looks over shoulder, then whispers* I don’t think we encountered one single tourist here.
In fact, even on our second day exploring the valley we didn’t spot a soul, apart from this local and his fine looking friend:
If it wasn’t for the lovely folk at Picota, I’m not sure we would have considered the Jerte Valley as a Spanish destination, but I think it just goes to show that there are so many hidden gems yet to discover.
In Part 3, I’ll feature eight things to do and see in the Jerte Valley.
What makes Picota so special? The Spanish Picota cherry is grown on the terraced slopes of the Jerte Valley, which lies South-West of Madrid in the Cáceres region. The valley stretches over 70km and covers approximately 10,000 hectares. When the trees are in blossom the valley is magnificent, awash with beautiful white flowers. These cherries are particularly special, because they are unique to the Jerte Valley and are protected by a Denomination of Origin (DO) certificate, which verifies that the fruit has been grown, harvested and packed under rigorous quality control procedures and has come exclusively from the Valle Del Jerte in Spain. This also means that Picotas are only available for six weeks per year and they are not ever ‘artificially’ cultivated to yield profit to the detriment of taste and quality. When a Picota is harvested by hand, there is a simple test to see if it has reached optimum ripeness. The cherry will naturally come away from the stalk when it is ripe, which is why the Picotas are sold without a stalk and only ever harvested at exactly the right time. The Picota cherry exports with the Ambrunés variety, which accounts for 70% of the total Picota crop. This is followed by the later Picota varieties of Pico Negro, Pico Colorado and Limón Negro. The word ‘Picota’ means ‘peaked’, which directly relates to the shape of the cherry, which has a slight peak to the base.
- This year we have 3737 growers with registered farms.
- The total area of the registered farms is 9856.10 hectares
- Potential production, based on averages from previous years, of the varieties covered is 8,815.064KG
- The number of registered fields is 23,75000
- The number of registered trees is 211,914