Almond trees and vines in Algarve

The southern snow

Back in the days, the Algarve had long, wide and gorgeous almond tree orchards. My grandfather’s family earned a living from it and he still owns some of those same almond trees. When he was 20 something, he was in charge of “varejar” (southern portuguese word for hitting a long stick against the tree branches – this technique was used for olives, almonds and carobs) and he was so focused on his job that an almond hit his opened eye. He has been blind from that eye ever since.

But that’s a late summer’s concern. Now, we’re still in winter and, as usual, in January and February, the almond trees are blooming. If their almonds are going to be sweet, the flower is white. If they’re going to be bitter the flower is pink.

Almond flowers in Algarve

Almond flowers in Algarve

One of the most famous Algarvian tales is about the nothern princess that married the arab king Ibn-Almudim, back in the days when Algarve was still Al-gharb. The princess Gilda and the king were very much in love, but when winter came she fell sick. All the doctors came to see her and nobody could find a physical reason for her discomfort. She just kept on looking through the window and, with sad eyes and between sighs, mentioned she couldn’t believe it didn’t snow there. For that reason, one doctor suggested to the king that the Lady was probably “snow sick”. So the king promptly gathered the right people and demanded that Gilda was be kept away from their bedroom window and that thousands of almond trees were planted in front of that window. When the day came that the trees were all in bloom, he invited her – as she woke up – to open the window. As she looked at the almond trees, she thought she was seeing snow and felt happy and reinvigorated right away.

Now, the flowers from the almond trees are almost all gone. The rain and strong wind  in February blew most of them away already. When I took these pictures it was raining on and off, so I didn’t manage to take the picture from the hill top (where it’d look more like snow), because it was raining when I got there. Next year, there will be more almond flowers for me to take pictures, if progress doesn’t take them away from me :)

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