The mighty Soller Orange
Published in the Majorca Daily bulletin
on Tuesday 21st April 2015
Photographs by Rachel Fox
The oranges of the Soller Valley are unique as the micro climate they are created in provide the sweetest fruit. It is possible to buy completely untreated oranges in some local outlets and this is a throwback to the genuine article. This was the fruit that made one of Soller’s fortunes in the past. Much is made of its orange past and the problems that happened when the fruit was hit by blight. This. at the turn of century caused massive migration from Soller as the harvests failed. The young people left the Valley in their thousands and went to France , South America and other emerging countries of the time such as South Africa . The orange was not the only industry of the era as Soller was also an industrial City with 20 factories open 24 hours a day making textiles and cotton goods. The two industries of factories and farming made the Soller Valley a rich, vibrant place which was ahead of its time in using the profits for education, art, music and culture for the local people.
The orange harvests recovered, the blight was treated and many of the émigrés returned to the Soller we know today. They brought with them money and possessions and the ‘Frenchness’ that is so evident in Soller was contributed to by the possessions and thinking that these people brought back with them.
The Orange is so important here that the train in its early days was known as the ‘Orange Express’. As you come from the tunnel into Soller there is the first of many signs you will see welcoming you to the ‘Valley of the Orange ’. Local businesses such as Fet A Soller have made it their life’s work to export the Soller Orange worldwide again and these days it is all done online. The humble orange takes pride of place in the cuisine of the Soller Valley and alongside the Soller prawn is the most famous.
Every year the Fira of the Orange takes place and lasts for three weeks in one form or another. This past weekend we have enjoyed the Agricole Centre on the way to Fornalutx being the heart of the Fiesta. On Saturday night the only place to be was in the foothills of the Tramuntana dancing to local bands and DJ’s till the early hours. The young at heart celebrated the orange with the orange liqueur of the area amongst many other drinks. On Sunday the Agricole became the showground for the stalls selling local orange products and a huge out door restaurant. We paid our 15€ for salad with orange dressing, a huge community paella with orange infused rice, and orange ice cream. This was accompanied by the enthusiastic drumming of the Batucada, a concert by the Town Band and the music and dancing from Aires Sollerics. It was a great community day and the speeches and presentations to the ‘Orange Farmer of the Year’ were given amongst many cheers.
From Monday 20th April till Sunday 3rd May 2015 the Orange Tasting Menu day trips are available for 38€. This price includes a return train journey from Palma , return trips to the Port of Soller on the Tram and lunch or dinner.
If you are using this special day trip you make your choice of restaurant when you buy your train ticket. There are 17 participating restaurants and they are amongst the very best this region has to offer. A few of the restaurants only offer this deal at lunchtime but the majority offer the special price for either lunch or dinner. This is fabulous opportunity to try some very special Soller eateries.
If you are already here in Soller or arrive by other means you can still have the benefit of the Soller Orange Firo prices. It will cost 23€ for lunch or dinner at the participating restaurants – the only stipulation is that you reserve in advance. So many people enjoy this gastronomic feast in the Soller Valley that if you turn up without a reservation you are likely to be disappointed. The menu for each restaurant is printed in the booklet you can obtain from the station and other tourist outlets or view online at https://www.facebook.com/pages/JORNADES-DE-LA-TARONJA.
The Soller Valley is worth a visit anytime but the special treats of the local chefs make this a particularly special time. The oranges are at their sweetest and the restaurants have their doors open wide to welcome you. Hope to see you you soon in the orange capital of my world.