Monday, 31 May 2010

New potatoes

We harvested the first of our new potatoes today, and shall now be serving these culinary delights in the restaurant. The variety we use for our early crops is “Mona Lisa” and it really is a lovely eating potato. This first early crop was planted on the 20th of January but you don’t see signs of it sprouting above the ground till the end of February, then about 90 days later it’s ready for harvest.

Harvesting the gourmet "Mona Lisa" early potatoes today.
This year we planted three 15 m2 “beds” of early potatoes over a two week period from the 20th of January to the 6th of February. With the early planting there is a risk of the crop being affected by a late frost. However the later the crop is planted the more the chance of having problems with potato blight due to the warmer and humid weather conditions. Although Mona Lisa is an excellent eating variety it is rather sensitive to potato blight so this is why we plant a lot of this variety quite early, even though the yields can be a little bit low. Hopefully the harvest from the 3 beds planted with early potatoes should see us through till we start cropping our main potato crop in August.
This is the main crop; Sapro which will carry on growing and flowering till September.

Nothing goes to waste, here the haulms are being wheeled off to the compost heap.

For the main crop we use two of the Sapro varieties which are resistant to potato blight. These potatoes are high yielding, resist potato blight when all other varieties succumb to the disease and are quite a consistent potato which store well. We actually used the last of last year potatoes in the leek and potato soup tonight, and they are still very good.

Potatoes harvested today to be used over the next couple of weeks.

So with luck it should be another year where we harvest sufficient potatoes over the year to keep our restaurants fully supplied. Now just to enjoy these lovely newly harvested potatoes.

Monday, 24 May 2010

100 best bolt holes in Europe "Sunday Times"

Posada del Valle, Asturias

Yesterday we had a little more press coverage; this time in an article in the Sunday Times entitled “The hot 100 best hotels in Europa.” This is what they wrote:
"The battered Atlantic coast lies one way, the Picos de Europa rise the other. In between, the Posada del Valle, a former farmstead, clings to a hillside above the village of Collia. Magnificent mountain views take care of the aesthetics. A British couple, Nigel and Joann Burch, take care of the simple life within, with flair — and flavours from their own farm’s organic fare. 985 841157,; from £53/£64"
Here is the full article.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Picos de Europa (A New Guide)

Snow covered peaks in the Central Massiff

We’ve just finished a new guide about the Picos de Europa so we thought we would give you an insight in to the Picos and the guide.
The Picos de Europa are a range of mountains in northern Spain. They form part of the Cordillera Cantabrica, a long chain of mountains running between the Pyrenees to the east and Galicia to the west.

Lake Ercina in the Western Massiff ; superb walking and wild flowers.

The Picos de Europa are a wonderful setting for hiking and mountain-climbing, wildflower-spotting and bird-watching, scenic drives through the valleys and villages, or even pot-holing and rock-climbing for the more adventurous.

The Picos de Europa are sliced into three distinct areas by deep gorges running south-north:- the Western Massif, the Central Massif, and the Eastern Massif. Each of the three massifs has its own subtle character.

Lunar landscapes in the Western Massiff

The western massif covers the greatest area of the three, climbing relatively gently from the hills of the Covadonga area, becoming an almost lunar landscape across its high rocky plateau, centred on the wide depression of Hou Santu, and peaking at the 2596m of Torre Santa de Castilla, before plunging 1500m into the narrow Cares Gorge.

Looking towards Bulnes

The central massif is the most abrupt of the three, being surrounded by deep gorges to the north, west and east; it is home to the highest peak in the whole Cordillera Cantabrica – Torre Cerredo, at 2648m The little-visited eastern massif is the smallest and lowest of the three.

On the summit of Peña Santa de Enol

Last summer I started to do a lot more walking in the Picos climbing a range of the more “easy to moderate” peaks and thoroughly enjoyed it. Most of the tracks and pathways within the Picos de Europa today, though, are due to the pastoral livelihoods of the local people – a way of life that still exists but is in decline.

The people of the Picos de Europa co-evolved with the landscape during millennia, grazing their livestock, cutting wood for building and burning, coppicing chestnuts and hazels, harnessing the power of water to grind their grain, and leaving their mark on the landscape in many ways, as it left its mark on them. It is this symbiosis of people and landscape that lends the area its inspirational quality.

Traditional farming still practised in the Picos de Europa

I am pleased to say we have just finished a complete new guide to the Picos de Europa which is now on our web. It covers the following topics: climate, culture, fauna, flora, geography, geology, walking, tourist attractions, driving itineries, access, and further information.

The guide has been written by Hugh Taylor and Nigel Burch and has been designed and published on the web by Sebastian Burch who has also translated the original version into Spanish. Much of this blog entrance comes from the guide. So if you want to learn more about the Picos and get a taste for this very special area do have a look at our new guide: The Picos de Europa

Sunset over the Western Massif with a sea of cloud over the Carres Gorge

Thursday, 6 May 2010

A Tale of Cats and Sacks.

Joe relaxing at home in the winter with some of her cats.

I was asked to write the blog this week and other than food and cooking my passion in life has always been cats……………..

Here at the Hotel there is no shortage of these four legged creatures, all with their own personalities if you excuse the phrase.

This is Luna our eldest cat literally given to me by a neighbor in a sack, when I let her out she disappeared into the cavity of the wall of our old house and only emerged to eat in the midnight hours. This she did for two weeks and eventually plucked up the courage to see us, she now enjoys all the attention she can get from various guests on the bench outside the Hotel main entrance.



We have six cats at present all appeared here at the hotel over the years. Sandy and Gandhi arrived at the kitchen door to see what was on the menu, obviously liked it so decided to stay. Funny thing is that raspberry and almond torte is a favorite with the cats and with the Pine martens who also used to be frequent visitors to the back door of the kitchen.


Our one and only true farm cat is Tootsie, she was abandoned on the road above the farm, she now spends her life hunting mole rats, a huge problem in this part of the world in the orchards and vegetable garden. Toots is normally found in the stable or in the orchards.
Our last two additions who were left at the hotel door were Lizzy and Frosty, guess who is who?

This is also to show we did get some snow this year. As you can see I don’t need to start a cat’s home, there is obviously someone local who keeps me supplied…..
And to all those we have loved but are no longer here.


Blog entry written by Joe


Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.