Atlantic. Laurisilva Forest. Hikes.
There is a whole immense sea as far as the eye can see and, at the same time, playing a leading role in the surroundings of Madeira, the name of an archipelago, an island, an autonomous region belonging to Portugal. It is one of the "Fortunate Islands" of the North Atlantic, representing a quarter of Macaronesia, a term implemented in the 19th century by the British geologist and botanist, Philip Baker Webb, to designate the quartet also formed by the archipelagos of the Azores, the Canaries, and Cape Verde.
Known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, Madeira Island has the Laurisilva, the indigenous subtropical rainforest, the insignia of World Natural Heritage of Humanity awarded in 1999 by UNESCO. This enchanted green spot occupies about 15 thousand hectares in the heart of the island to the north side of it and maintains its endemic species, thanks to the mild climate of the archipelago.
The same climatic conditions associated with soils of volcanic origin, a composition that justifies the predominance of basalt and its mountainous terrain, favour the cultivation of products from other places, brought over during the Discoveries period.
The exoticism is intrinsically linked to the diversity of fruit on the island, from the Madeira banana, grown mainly in the south of the island, between zero and 200 meters in altitude, the banana tree benefits from the desirable solar and water conditions, to Annona DOP is cultivated at an altitude of 500 meters in the south and up to 280 meters in the north of the island. Now is the time to mention the importance of the hikes. These irrigation channels, whose beginnings date back to the 16th century, with the purpose of “carrying” the abundant water, on the slopes oriented to the North towards the lands located to the South, advance into the Laurisilva forest, and invite to nature walks.
Papaya, tabaibo or prickly pear, mango, guava, Surinam Cherry, passion fruit and banana passion fruit set the variety of fruits on the vast list, complemented by pear or apple, medlar, plum, mandarin, cherry, lemon or physalis.
Add sugarcane, the raw material used in the production of sugarcane honey and sugarcane spirit, Madeira yam – the white is served cooked, to accompany fish or fried, and the red is traditionally cooked in the soup of cabbage, beans, and pork. Add couscous, a tradition from Lameiros, in the municipality of São Vicente, located on the north coast of the island, and sweet potatoes, commonly cultivated in Santana, in the Northeast, as well as in Ponta do Sol, Calheta and Ribeira Brava, to Southwest. Without forgetting the stew in the pan served in a cabbage leaf, a typical dish in Seixal, in the parish of Porto Moniz, made on the last weekend of January, and the greatest pretext to bring the family together at the table. Noteworthy are the sea fish – bream, chromis, wrasse, swordfish, limpets, and barnacles, these in Porto Santo.
Finish off with the Madeira Honey Cake, the Madeira cakes, made from goat's cheese and accompany it with Madeira Wine, a generous tasting with well-deserved leisure, while enjoying the green landscape of this true pearl of the Atlantic.