The chestnut harvest, "fatal"
Hundreds of people sat down yesterday at the table in the Poblet de Vilanova de Prades field to enjoy a homemade breakfast on the grill and take part in the Chestnut Market and Fair, which is held every year in this municipality of Conca de Barbera.
But what few knew is that this year the harvest of these high-energy nuts, rich in vitamins and low in fat, has been very low. If for years the chestnut trees in the area of the Prades Mountains have been suffering from canker disease and the crop has practically disappeared, this year the drought has added, which has left the trees dry and with few fruits.
Fatal. This is how Claudi Lladó describes this chestnut season not only in Vilanova de Prades but also in the neighboring districts of Capafonts and Prades.
Last year his harvest was already very low, between 350 and 400 kilos, and this year it has reached 150. «I have not been able to sell to the stores. I had to reserve all of them for this party », he commented to the Daily next to the two large toasters that were yesterday in the Poblet field.
Two thousand people gathered in the Poblet field, the epicenter of the festival
Its harvest has been concentrated in a shady area of chestnut trees, which have been able to retain part of the humidity. "The chestnuts have fallen later as they are drier." This tree needs a cool environment and a lot of rainfall, a minimum of between 600 and 700 liters per square meter per year, as well as little drought in summer. Quite the opposite of what has happened.
Lladó forty years ago had 15 hectares of chestnut trees. "Now I only pick up one." Looking to the future, he is not very optimistic: "If the situation continues like this, that crop will become extinct." He remembers that in the other neighboring municipalities the crop was extinguished before.
The tests carried out by the Generalitat to fight against the canker fungus have not worked, contrary to what has happened in other parts of Catalonia, where chestnut cultivation has revived, towards the northeast of Catalonia, such as the counties of Osona and La Selva – the surroundings of the Montseny massif and Les Guilleries –, where it preferably occupies the north-facing slopes.
This chestnut producer from Vilanova de Prades still remembers when he harvested 400 kilos from a single chestnut tree – he was a hundred years old – more than twice as much as in the entire season.
The mayor of Vilanova de Prades, Artur Miró, was very satisfied with the influx of visitors this year. He calculates that there could be around 2,000 people in the Poblet field.
«Last year, after the restrictions due to the pandemic, attendance was already very good. But this year it has been surpassed and by far. At half past ten, most of the parking areas enabled for the party were already closed to the passage of vehicles because there was no room for more.
However, mainly along the Vallclara road, cars continued to arrive. Miró acknowledges that with so many people "it is difficult to provide a good service" for a town as small as Vilanova de Prades, with a hundred residents. The mayor said that they have actively collaborated in the preparation of the events.
With the massive attendance of visitors, the tickets for the popular breakfast, which cost five euros and gave the right to bread with tomato, salami and bacon, ran out. "Nobody was left without lunch, although in the end some ingredients were missing and we lowered the price."
The ticket also included a piece of chestnuts. 500 kilos were roasted and sold out too. The money raised, says the mayor, does not cover the costs of the party, "the City Council must add a significant amount." But he was still pleased with how everything had gone.
Artur Miró points out that if the drought continues, "we will have difficult years" and it will be difficult to find chestnuts in the area to celebrate the festival.