Get to know the “huerta” (orchard), the natural treasure that surrounds Valencia

At a time when the whole planet is realising that it must take better care of its natural resources, Valencia can be proud of having always kept its vegetable garden close by.

Up to 10,000 hectares of horta, as we say in Valencian, surround the city. And thanks to this land, both the municipal markets and the different restaurants in the city can offer local and first class products every day. The irrigation system that keeps all these lands hydrated, drinking from the Turia River, is a network of irrigation ditches inherited from the Arab times and which continues to be the most effective for all types of crops in the Valencian orchard.

In addition to serving as a livelihood for farmers and fishermen, the Valencian countryside is home to a wide variety of birds, fish and plants, which is why the UN has included it as a world agricultural heritage site of the FAO (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization). In l’horta we can find all kinds of fruits depending on the area where we are: oranges, artichokes, tomatoes, aubergines … But there are two products that are the star of the northern and southern, respectively.

In l’horta nord the product that enjoys a sweet fame is the chufa (tigernut), that small wrinkled-looking tuber with which the horchata is made. This ideal drink to refresh oneself is one of the delights that any visitor who passes by here cannot miss. The town next to Valencia that serves as capital of the tigernut milk is Alboraya, but there are up to 16 municipalities with orchards that also cultivate the tigernut milk and are included under the Protected Denomination of Origin Chufa of Valencia.

If you want to enjoy the wonders of the orchard in the north of Valencia, there is a unique plan for you: Experience the vegetable garden of Valencia. With this experience you will discover how the farmers work and become one of them, what products are cultivated and how the irrigation system works with irrigation ditches. The products collected will be used to prepare some salads and the table will be completed with the Valencian wood-fired paella that will teach you how to cook.

The rice you use for the paella will be the union between horta nord and horta sud, as this is the star product of the southern area. The area where the waters of the Albufera bathe the surrounding fields is where a large part of the rice in the province of Valencia is grown. Here you can also immerse yourself in Valencian culture by cooking a paella in a real barraca, a type of traditional house that is characteristic of the countryside and which today is protected for its historical value.

The Tribunal de las Aguas de la Vega de Valencia (Water Tribunal of the plain of Valencia)  which is responsible for resolving conflicts arising from the use and development of irrigation water among farmers, is the oldest institution of justice in Europe and was declared an intangible cultural heritage site by UNESCO in 2009. Every Thursday at 12:00h, it meets at the Puerta de los Apóstoles of the Cathedral of Valencia and is a great attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Como ves, puedes comerte la huerta desde la comodidad de los mejores restaurantes de València o yendo a tocar la tierra con tus propias manos. Pero nuestros campos siempre seguirán bien cerca, recordándonos que somos vecinos desde hace muchos, muchos años.