One of the sights of early springtime in Spain is the blossoming of the almond trees; it’s a sign that winter is definitely on the way out.
And the Costa Blanca is normally one of the best places see the trees in full bloom during February/March. Try heading inland from Calpe, towards the town of Xaló and the villages of Parcent and Alcalalí, or towards the valleys around Guadalest.
Spain is the number two producer of almonds worldwide (the USA is the biggest) and almonds are something of a regional speciality hereabouts. Turrón, the Christmas sweet you see in every Spanish home, is made from almonds and the best comes from Alicante province. The town of Xixona (Jijona) is famous for it.
But there is a problem. Potentially a very big problem. It’s called Xylella fastidiosa. A very nasty bacterial disease that strikes almond trees and it’s spreading remorselessly around the Mediterranean. There’ve been a number of cases in Alicante province. And there’s no cure; the only current solution is to tear up the infected tree and those around it.
It doesn’t just affect almond trees either; the first cases in Spanish olive trees were reported last spring near Madrid and there’s also been a case in an apricot tree in Alicante province.
The Xylella bacteria causes scorching of the leaves and stunting of growth, which means the trees are useless for commercial production. The EU has called it “one of the most dangerous plant bacteria worldwide” and it’s already causing serious problems in Italy and Corsica. Even the British government is worried…and they’re a thousand miles away.
Although Alicante farmers do get some compensation for the trees they have to destroy, the fear is that if Xylella isn’t stopped somehow, the traditional springtime sight of almond trees in full blossom may never be quite the same again.
©Guy Pelham 2018