Algarve Diet Recognised by UNESCO

Olives are inescapable in the Algarve - and rightly so!

There’s no question that food is an important part of life here in the Algarve. Before tourism, the region was largely devoted to fishing and agriculture, with figs, almonds and oranges all grown in abundance. The trees still dominate the inland Algarve today, but in coastal parts many traditional farming and fishing pursuits have given way to the tourism and travel sector.

Food is nevertheless still a key part of what makes the Algarve so unique and fishing and aquaculture remain important activities. Every town has its fish market, with locals bartering over the price of that morning’s catch. The tourists benefit via the thousands of restaurants that are dotted along the coast, offering everything from sea bream cooked on the charcoal grill to dishes of steaming, buttery clams to octopus for the more adventurous foodie.

The Algarve diet was high up on our list of priorities when we moved here. Eating salty sardines hot from the grill and washed down with a glass of cold vinho verde encapsulates the image of Portugal that we kept in mind during the long, dreary London commutes, when living here was still but a dream. We couldn’t wait to sample all of the local olive oils and to try our hand at cooking feijoadas (bean stews), seafood rice dishes and wine-roasted octopus.

Dreaming of Portuguese seafood

Dreaming of Portuguese seafood

The wonderful, fresh local ingredients that we have access to in the Algarve are truly something to be celebrated. I’m not sure there are many things in life as good as juicing sun-warmed oranges straight from the tree, or gorging on sticky figs that are bursting from their skins after the neighbour brings round a basketful. And it seems that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agrees.

Feijoada - family recipes are full of flavour

Feijoada – family recipes are full of flavour

UNESCO has officially recognised the Algarve diet as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity, after a lengthy application process by Tavira Câmara. It’s an honour for the region and a lovely affirmation of the wonderful gastronomic culture that exists here. Part of the recognition relates to the way in which recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, preserving the food traditions that contribute to the Algarve diet. Anyone who has tried a chocolate mousse made from an old Portuguese family recipe will understand just how deserved the UNESCO recognition is!