You may remember that last year local chef and expert forager João Marreiros was regularly writing in to tell us all a little about the plants he manages to forage on his regular trips into the Algarvian countryside. Joaõ really knows his stuff and uses what he finds to put a wonderful and unique spin on the dishes he serves at his restaurant ‘Loki’ in Portimão.

With all sorts of plants soon to start blooming in this bright and prosperous ‘ano novo’, we are excited to know what he has in store for us this year. After all, we at The Portugal News take pride in keeping you all up to date on what’s going on - ‘on the ground’ - in the Algarve.

So, without further ado, João would like to start the year by telling us all about the plant responsible for the Algarve’s famous fire water. I’ll let him take it from here…

Medronho in Monchique

I was born and raised in Monchique and this month I want to write about the Medronho plant (Arbutus unedo) as it’s a very important part of my ‘Monchiquence’ culture.

Usually this fruit is treated with a lot of mysticism and is picked manually - preferably by experienced people - because a good fruit has a great impact on the final product. This process is very complicated because, as I mentioned before, the fruit has to be picked by hand and in Monchique with the inclination of the terrain, this makes this process even more complicated.

After harvesting, it is fermented with the help of time. Once this is done, all that's missing is the firewood, the copper, and the experience of the distiller resulting in a clear liquid with notes of love.

Medronho is responsible for creating ties between friends and family and is constantly present at our tables to help uninhibit and spice up our conversations. If you ever go to Monchique and someone offers you a glass of Medronho, please note that this is seen by us as one of the purest and noblest ways of showing affection for others.

Habitat: edges of woods, rocky slopes

Flowering/fruiting season: October to February

Food uses: the fruits can be consumed raw, or transformed into a wide variety of desserts or dishes, but it is usually used more to make a distilled beverage.

Medicinal uses: it has astringent, diuretic and antiseptic properties