Time for almond blossom

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Gloria, a life-long resident of Sarrià (once a village, now an area of Barcelona), remembers playing in the groves of carob trees (Ceratonia siliqua) at the foot of Collserola. The pods were used as animal feed, mainly for horses, and she and her friends liked to eat them too. For older people it was a place of bad memories, as during the Spanish civil war prisoners were brought there and executed. The trees have long disappeared and the Barcelona Polytechnic was built on the land.

On the other side of Sant Pere Martir, in the southern end of Collserola, there are still a lot of carob as well as olive and almond trees. They’re a reminder that the “wild” space Barcelona enjoys today was once intensely cultivated and exploited.

In February the gnarled and decrepit almond trees are briefly transformed, and make us think winter’s time is up. Even the ones toppled by the recent gales blossom enthusiastically in their prone positions.

The winds also emptied the carob trees of their dangling black pods, which lie like heaps of rotting bananas on the ground, conveniently for the boars, badgers and other interested passers-by. The olive trees are busy with blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), polishing off the last of the fruit, which has kept them going all winter long.

Asparagus hunters dotted about the hills whistle and shout to each other. A blackcap solo comes fluting out from a quiet corner of the valley. Other small signs of change: a patch of violets among the ivy, and the song of a jay, unexpectedly soft, with a beseeching lilt.