Valleseco is a green and mountainous municipality if ever there was one, despite its name meaning dry valley; its lush, woody vegetation has always been a natural pine and laurel landscape, but also now has another tree which for the last couple of centuries has taken pride of place in its agricultural production. The whole thing started around the middle of the 19th century, 1843 to be exact, when this area became a formal municipality, and one of its first mayors decided to promote the plantation of apple trees, of the pippin variety, in 1858, as a way of making proper use of fallow land.
By well into the 20th century, the success of this new crop made the apple one of the key products offered up to the Virgin of La Encarnación, who, since 1974 has been the subject of pilgrimage during the festivals held in honour of this co-patron saint of the municipality. It actually reached the point of being called the “Apple Festival” alongside its official name, with apple street parties, apple exhibition, and a prize-giving for the biggest apple on show.
However, such joy regarding the pippin apple was being overshadowed by its trees falling into decline: the hands of farmers attending to this crop became less and less, the harvest suffered in quantity and quality, and the trees themselves in many cases grew wild or just died off.
So the Town Hall had to dig deep once more to find a new formula to breathe life back into the fields and the pippin apple. The formula this time was to turn the apple into natural cider. This great initiative gave rise to a small cider factory in 2010 – the first one on the Canary Islands – which was given the name of Gran Valle (great valley). Up to this point, in the whole of Gran Canaria there were some 16.000 apple trees accounted for (here we call them “manzaneros”), half of these in Valleseco alone.
The boost the cider business has given to the local area has seen the number of apple trees triple in this municipality in the first two years of Gran Valle Cider. Also, every year since then gastronomic fairs have been held including dishes with the happy apple among its ingredients, and of course, a splash of happy Gran Valle Cider to wash them down (for more information about the apple, just go to www.nortedegrancanaria.es and www.pellagofio.com).
All this gastronomy now toasted with cider can be found in restaurants all around the municipality (especially around the town of Valleseco and the district of Lanzarote). Many residents on the island even organize their gastronomic visit around the green areas of La Laguna de Valleseco, where they can make use of its recreational area (subject to prior consent by the Town Hall) and setting up a barbecue, with each guest bringing his own meat.
This natural area is also used as an ornithological observatory, as its lake is frequented by different species of birds, but was also used as farmland in the middle of last century for the production of… lupin beans (“chochos” in the islanders’ local dialect). “They were seeded in October and for this job up to twenty yoked oxen were used”, explains the last watchman to look after these lands.
The chochos “were collected towards the end of July and in August, late in the day when it was cooler”. For this, the watchman, who was called Juan del Pino, would come out over El Zumacal, El Sobradillo and Teror and blow into a conch shell. The sound echoing around those neighbouring districts was the signal for locals to go out and collect the harvest… in exchange for the dry twigs lying around, which they used as firewood for cooking in their houses.