It’s held the first Saturday of every month, unless there is a national holiday to get in the way.
It’s a large agricultural fair, with cowbells, sheepbells and goatbells, leather boots, local sheep, goat, or cow’s milk cheeses and every kind of Portuguese smoked sausage and ham imaginable. There are stalls selling roast chickens with piri-piri sauce, grilled suckling pigs, and wonderful lemon-scented baignets or doughnuts and fritters dusted with sugar. Next to these are truckloads of farm birds, ring-necked doves,homing pigeons, fan tails, ducks of every type, dabbling and quacking, and disgruntled hens in small cages. There are turkeys, and partidges and quail, and rabbits with whiffling noses, and across the walkway, cages and cages of colourful parrots, squeaking and squawking.
Here you can find passion-fruit plants in pots, along with feijoa, figs, apricots, pomegranates and blueberry or goji berry bushes. Some of these, we can of course grow here, but many of them will not put up with our winter frosts. (However, in springtime we might be tempted to pop a passion-fruit vine into our van, and buy some marans for their beautiful speckled plumage and nut-brown eggs, or a few guinea-fowl to squawk around the hen run!)
It’s a great opportunity for us to enliven the table with different ingredients, and also a chance to buy plants and trees for the orchards. We came back with plugs of leeks, cabbages, purple cauliflower, romanesco and broccoli, as well as onions and beetroot to plant in the huerta for winter and spring. We also bough 1Kg of broad bean seeds which we will sow this month so that we can harvest them in March or April.
I’ve rotavated the small poly-tunnel, which had been dunged with the straw and chicken poo collected when we cleaned out the chicken house last spring. It’s matured now into a calmer fuel for the plants, and in went three kinds of lettuce, escarole, and rocket, so that we will have some good saladings for Christmas and January.
The fridge now holds 4 or 5 different Portuguese cheeses, and painho sausages, gently smoked and essential with cabbage or cooked in a cataplana with seafood and potatoes.
We drove on from Moura market into town and found prize-winning Risca Grande specialty organic olive oil. They produce flavoured oils with their own lemons and mandarins; the first of which is sensational with fish or green beans, and the second will enhance any chocolate mousse, or citrus cake.
We drove north with a roasted chicken from the market, a bottle of local red wine, a freshly made loaf of bread and some small sheeps’ cheeses; picnicked in the last blaze of autumn sunshine on the shore of the lake created by the Alqueva dam, a masterpiece of engineering which has created a many-branched lake around 60 Kms long, perfect for sailing and mucking about in boats.
Back home to greet friends, and prepare for a busy week.