Trees play an essential role in the world, and for that it is necessary to protect them. In 1971, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, following a recommendation from the World Forestry Congress, designated March 21 as World Tree and Forest Day, with the aim of remembering the importance of trees and forests. for the planet. Although March 21 was stipulated, its celebration differs from country to country.
On a trip to the Algarve you can find several species of trees, but the most important are: Orange Tree, Carob Tree, Olive Tree, Almond Tree and Fig Tree.
The orange tree is of Asian origin, with the first plantations appearing in China and India. These were cultivated for medicinal purposes, being a kind of bitter orange.
Unlike the bitter orange, the sweet orange only appeared in Europe in the 16th century, through the Portuguese who brought it from China. It was due to this feat that oranges later began to be called “Portuguese” in other countries.
The sweet orange has been cultivated for more than five centuries in the Algarve, and nowadays it is considered the second most produced and exported fruit in Portugal, with the apple in first place.
In the 18th century, in Portugal, more specifically in the Algarve, Christmas trees were decorated with oranges.
In relation to its name, the orange is called in Greece “portulális”, in Turkey and Bulgaria “portukal”, in Romania “portocala”, in Italy “portogallo”, in some Persian-speaking countries such as Iran and Afghanistan, the word “Portugal” means “orange” and there is still in North Africa a quality of orange tree, which is called “portugaise”.
Curiosities: The orange is rich in vitamin C, and the essential oils extracted from the flowers and fruit are used in the production of perfumes.
Another curiosity is that 83% of the national orange production is made in the Algarve.
The carob tree is a tree of Mediterranean origin, which was brought by the Arabs to the Algarve, being these the creators of the name of its fruit, as we know today, the carob.
Carob, from the Arabic al-karrub, means “carob tree pod”, but it is also known as Saint John Bread, due to having been food for Saint John the Baptist, in his passage through the desert.
The carob seed has been used since Mesopotamian times as a unit of weight for precious materials, such as diamonds and gold, thus giving rise to the “arroba”. Some say that this seed was also used for mummification in Ancient Egypt, and some have been found in tombs.
The fruit itself can be used in food for livestock, as well as for humans, since in times of famine and war, wheat flour was scarce and therefore, carob flour was made for the production of bread for consumption by the population, given that the carob seed itself is rich in protein.
Another function of carob is that the oil that is extracted from its seed is used both for the cosmetics industry (the more moisturizing the cream, the more carob seed oil it has) and for the pharmaceutical industry (forming pills).
Curiosities: Did you know that carob is a naturally sweet substitute for chocolate, it dispenses with the use of sugar in the production of products based on its seed, from pies, baby food and puddings. It is also used in the production of liqueurs, syrups and beer.
Another curiosity is that the Algarve produces 95% of all carob beans in Portugal, and is considered one of the largest producers of carob beans in the world, after Spain and Italy.
Its origin is not concrete, but it is assumed that the olive tree originated in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, with fossils of olive leaves having been discovered throughout the Mediterranean. These correspond to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, when man began to learn how to extract oil from olives. However, there are those who say that its origin comes from Syria or Palestine, due to the discovery of traces of oil presses and fragments of vases from the Bronze Age in both countries.
Although its existence corresponds to the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, it was the Greeks and the Romans who took the olive tree to the whole of Mediterranean Europe, and these two peoples were the drivers of the creation of olive oil, which was used in food, as a fuel for the lighting, health and as a fabric waterproofing product.
With its expansion to many countries in Europe, the olive tree began to be considered part of the heritage of these countries, with different qualities of olive trees spread all over the world, being considered ancient trees. The only limit to its expansion was the cold, as it cannot withstand temperatures below 12ºC.
In Portugal, more specifically in the Algarve, the olive tree was introduced by the Phoenicians through the Guadiana River by Castro Marim. Later, the Romans settled in this region and contributed to the development of olive cultivation throughout the Algarve, and the oil produced was later sent to Rome, through the ports of Faro, Tavira and Castro Marim.
The Arabs introduced innovations in terms of cultural practices, fertilization and new ways of extracting olive oil. Later, the oil from Silves was sent to North Africa.
Curiosities: In Portugal, there are two copies of the oldest olive trees in the world, one located in the municipality of Loures (about 2850 years old) and the other in Tavira (about 2000 years old).
In the Algarve, the most present variety of olive tree is the Maçanilha Algarvia, and this is produced with a double function, being used both for the production of olive oil and for table olives.
Another curiosity is that the highest concentration of olive trees occurs in the barrocal and mountains, being mainly present in the municipalities of Tavira, São Brás de Alportel, Loulé, Albufeira, Silves, Olhão, Castro Marim and Alcoutim.
The almond tree belongs to the Rosaceae family and is a tree that will have its origin in Asia Minor and Northeast Africa, being cultivated since antiquity around the Mediterranean Sea.
This was introduced by the Arabs in Portugal, being very present in the Alto Douro and Algarve, and its production began with the Muslim invasion in 711. The almond tree has become part of Portuguese history, in such a way that it is referred to in one of the best-known legends that characterizes the Algarve, the Legend of Almond Trees in Flower.
The name of its fruit, the almond, comes from the Greek amygdále which later, through Latin, came to be called “prunus dulcis” which means sweet plum.
The Algarve has always been widely recognized for its almond, which led to it crossing borders from the 16th and 17th centuries, mainly to England, but it was also exported to other countries, such as Belgium, where it had a high in its marketing.
The Algarve almond has two functions. One is related to cosmetics, since it is possible to extract an oil from the almond, which has medicinal properties. The other functionality is related to cooking, where the almond kernel was used in the creation of conventional sweets, such as Doce Fino, Dom Rodrigo and Morgado of Almond, the first being associated with the Moorish heritage, since some sweets from the North from Africa, are very similar to Doce Fino, which has fruit and animal shapes.
Curiosity: Compared to other fruit trees, the almond tree is the only tree that blooms in winter, between the end of January and the beginning of March.
The fig tree appeared in the Neolithic, more specifically in Afghanistan, and later spread throughout the Mediterranean Sea. This is considered one of the first trees to be cultivated by man.
This tree, in the 5th century, after the fall of the Roman Empire, spread across Europe, having only arrived in Portugal by the Arabs in the 8th century.
In Portugal, the fig tree is very present in the Algarve, and its fruit (the fig) is considered part of the traditional Algarve diet. In 1708, for its nutritional properties, the fig from the Algarve was exported to some countries, namely Holland, Belgium, France and England.
In addition to being exported, figs from the Algarve were also used in the manufacture of jams, alcoholic beverages (fig brandy) and in Algarve sweets, such as fig cheese, full figs and even fig stars, thus being able to be consumed both fresh and dry.
Curiosity: There are about 755 species of fig trees in the world.