Discover the orchard: The Valencian pantry with its own name
Valencia's bread basket
Do you know what the real secret to delicious Valencian cuisine is? It's that our chefs, like all other Valencians, have at their disposal the best stocked pantry in the world: the Huerta (or l'Horta, Orchard in English), capitalized, because it is a space like no other, and its importance goes well beyond Valencia. Come check it out!
What is the Huerta?
The historic region of La Huerta extends some 120km2 around the city of Valencia, from Puzol in the north to l'Albufera in the south, and towns like Moncada, Paterna and Torrent in the west. A stone's throw from the urban hustle and bustle is a green landscape of fertile farmland, orange groves, vineyards and olive groves, where time seems to stand still. Traditional country houses and farmhouses originally made of reeds and clay rise up among the endless rice paddies, fields of chufa and vegetable plantations, in turn crisscrossed by an ancient network of canals.
Why is it important?
Valencia's Huerta not only supplies the markets and restaurants of Valencia, but its abundant production of fruits and vegetables is exported to the rest of Spain and abroad. Its irrigation system, a legacy from Arab times, is a display of ingenuity that has been recognized by the FAO as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). It has also given rise to a unique institution declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage: the Water Tribunal, which is responsible for its regulation, and which continues to meet every Thursday at noon at the gate of the Apostles of the Cathedral. Finally, it is important to remember that without this farmland and its rice paddies, that most universal of Valencian dishes, the paella, would not exist.
How can you visit the Huerta?
Getting to the Huerta is easy, and you can do it sustainably. The metro network goes out to towns within the region, such as Alboraya, Quart de Poblet and Paiporta, as do several urban bus routes (14, 15, 16, 23 and 70). The network of cycle paths extends out that far, so you can enjoy a pleasant ride on two wheels between the sea and the fields. Or, if you prefer, sign up for a guided bike tour, culminating in a boat ride on the Albufera.
What to do once you're there
The best way to appreciate the Huerta is by walking through its fields. From the viewpoint of Muntanyeta dels Sants in the Natural Park of l'Albufera, there are several routes to explore the rice paddies on foot or by bike. In addition to enjoying the rural landscape, you will find a variety of birds, from herons and cormorants to various birds of prey and the colorful kingfisher. Don't forget your binoculars!
Several sections of the Green Ring are now open too. This is a 26-km cycle/pedestrian corridor around Valencia that connects the Huerta and the Mediterranean Sea, running alongside country houses and farmhouses. Or you can cycle on the Via Xurra, 15 kilometers between Valencia and Puzol.
You can also visit some alquerías, humble farmhouses with a unique structure, and even learn to make a traditional Valencia paella in one of them, as offered by Descubre L’Horta. To learn more about the chufa, a crop that is exclusive to Valencia’s Huerta, visit the Museum of Horchata and Chufa in the Alqueria El Magistre. And companies like Horta Viva offer routes through the chufa fields with a demonstration of how to make the delicious Valencia horchata (with a tasting included, of course).
Where to enjoy the taste of the Huerta
If you want to cool off with a nice horchata near the chufa fields, you will find excellent horchaterías in Alboraya, such as Sequer Lo Blanch and Horchatería Vida, for example. And there is nothing like enjoying a rice dish or a traditional paella in the place that gave birth to this dish, especially if it's in one of its typical constructions such as the Barraca de Toni Montoliu or l'Alquería del Pi. Villa Indiano, in Burjassot, is another highly unique option, because it combines in the heart of the Huerta a very interesting cultural program in its gardens, with a restaurant located in a centuries-old renovated summer residence. Authentic farm-to-table cooking!
If an excursion to the Huerta isn't enough for you, stay the night! La Mozaira is a charming little hotel and restaurant in an old farmhouse nestled among the fields of Alboraya. There are other places to stay in this town, such as the Hotel Olympia. Or you can combine the visit to the Huerta with some days at the beach at the Meraki Beach hotel in Puebla de Farnals.