Portugal, and particularly the Algarve, now produces some of the most exquisite oysters in Europe. The Ria Formosa and the Ria de Alvor are two of the locations where these bivalves thrive. Taking only one to one-and-a-half years to fully grow, compared to four in France, thanks to the ideal conditions, these oysters are mostly produced for export to France.
Clams (amêijoas) are the most popular bivalves in the region. Cooked on their own with olive oil, garlic and coriander or integrated into seafood rice, these little pockets of heaven give a unique and refined taste to any dish. Inhabitants of sandy bottoms and mud in the Algarve’s coastal lagoons, clams, especially "à Bulhão Pato" are a reference of Portuguese cuisine and delight locals and tourists.
The Rolls Royce of Portuguese seafood, the scarlet prawn (carabineiro) is big and extremely tasty. Baked, fried or grilled, to garnish rice or cataplana, the bright red carabineiro provide an unforgettable sensory experience. With its elongated head and a hornlike spike which protrudes from its head, its meat is sweet and of a delicate texture. Carabineiros are best served sliced down the middle and very quickly grilled.
Mistakenly called the "seafood of the poor” (each kilo can cost more than 50 euros when the sea is rough), the goose barnacle (percebe) is one of the most sought after Algarvean delicacies. Collected by percebeiros who risk their lives climbing down cliffs to grab them, they are an ugly crustacean eaten by squeezing its tip and ripping off a dinosaur like claw to reveal its tender flesh.
Gluten free and high in fibre, sweet potatoes are all the rage at the moment. With a reddish brown skin and yellow pulp, the Aljezur variety of this root vegetable is used in soups, stews, pies and is also baked and fried. The locals are so proud of their crop that they organise a yearly festival in its honour, during its high season, in November.
A natural antibiotic, Monchique honey is produced by the Apis mellifera iberica bees. This honey has a varied composition due to the rich flora in the region, ranging from lavender and cistus to heather and eucalyptus, producing organic scented honey. It is also mixed with medronho (local fire water), lemon and cinnamon to make the popular melosa drink, known to help soothe colds and flus
Many are fooled into thinking the best oranges come from Spain. In fact, the Algarve's precious fruit is sweeter and juicier than its neighbouring cousins. A reliable source of vitamin C, they are pressed for their delicious juice and made into delicacies and cakes. Their natural sweetness comes from the unique soil they grow in and the year-long Algarvean sunshine.
Used by the locals to make sweets and puddings, as well as Amarguinha (almond liqueur), these delicious nuts are typical of the region. The almond blossom heralds the arrival of spring, covering the ground in a carpet of white and pink petals that look like snow. According to the legend a Moorish king order almond trees to be planted to remind his Nordic bride of winter back home
More popular than ever, grilled on every barbecue from June till September, sardines are a symbol of the Portuguese summer. This oily fish full of goodness and Omega 3s is eaten grilled, accompanied with potatoes and salad, or on a slice of bread. They are also very popular canned and have become a national delicacy, sold in olive oil, tomato sauce or other local seasonings