The acorns are falling in abundance here in Portugal; some are eaten by birds and small mammals, but they make an amazingly tasty treat for the quinta’s resident pigs! Portugal and Spain are renowned for acorn fed pigs, as it is supposed to enhance the flavour of their meat (ssh, don’t tell the pigs!). Pigs are fattened up with the flavoursome acorns, a traditional method also used in the UK, and known as Pannage. This ancient woodland tradition is mentioned in the Doomsday book, where pigs were and still are released into forests to root for these nutrient rich ‘Oak nuts’.
The foraging frenzy takes place in woodland areas such as the New Forest and benefits the free roaming cattle and horses, which could be poisoned by the bitter tannins in acorns; no problem for the strong stomach of the pigs though, as the acorns lower the pig’s bad cholesterol and increases their good cholesterol. The ham from acorn fed pigs also takes on a delicious unique nutty flavour. Bellota (Acorn) ham is the world famous Spanish delicacy produced from acorn fed pigs which forage for the acorns. A few minutes of foraging in the woods resulted in a huge bag of acorns, which we sprinkled around the pig enclosure for the two quinta pigs to seek out and enjoy.
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