La Vera is known for its very fertile soil, its mild climate and abundant rainfall, which makes it possible to cultivate a wide range of foods. In addition to the traditional kitchen garden, a very common practice in the region, a great deal of tobacco and asparragus is grown. A lot of farmland is also dedicated to the special bell peppers used to make the highly-regarded paprika known as pimentón de la Vera.
Traditional crops in the Tiétar area include cotton, flax, grains and peanuts.
La Vera’s traditional gastronomy can be defined as good honest cooking based on an excellent combination of simple ingredients. This leads to dishes of surprising flavour, despite the simplicity of their preparation. Bay leaves, thyme, paprika, hot peppers and garlic are among the secrets to this region’s cooking.
It is not sophisticated cooking, nor does it aspire to be, but it is nutritious and delicious. From winter stews made with a variety of pulses to the summer specialty rin-ran, the region’s cooking moves through the seasons with dishes featuring pork, codfish, game and goat.
Various recipes for tomate soup, potato soup, migas extremeñas, roast goat, stuffed trout, fig bars or lean pork in tomato sauce are just a few examples of the region’s culinary delights.
The network of rivers includes a number of streams running through steeply-walled valleys (called gargantas) found all along the southern slopes of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range. Among the most notable is the Garganta de Cuartos, which is fed by several different creeks, including:
The Largarejo, Hortigal, Hoz, Meñas on the left bank and the Caballerías, Matamoros and Vadillo on the right bank.
Remnants of the old waterwheels built long ago can still be seen.
The flora is extremely varied and stratified into bio-climatic layers due to the differences in altitude and the terrain’s changing topography.
On the peaks we see little vegetation, mainly varieties of broom and at slightly lower altitudes, grasslands.
On the shaded slopes and near the steams we can sometimes see plants in danger of disappearing from the region, such as holly.
Below are the rocky slopes where we can find juniper, still used in the making of liquors, and also heather.
The region’s most representative tree is the oak. In former times, acorns were used as fuel, but nowadays they are used only for feeding livestock. Oak wood is used to build furniture and houses and also as firewood.
Another important local tree is the chestnut, the fruit of which is eaten by both animals and humans. Its wood is of very high quality and is used for weight-bearing beams in construction.
Every November, delicious chestnuts are gathered and roasted for the traditional festivities known as la magosta.Further down, in the foothills, we find ferns (which play an interesting role in the traditional matanza), lavender, flax-leaved daphne, rockrose, broom, thyme, rosemary, mint, oregano, basil and the incense-scented plectranthus. These and other plants are eaten by goats and also used as medicinals, as cooking condiments and to drive away insects in the summer. There are also rockrose thickets and shrubs such as hawthorn and strawberry trees.
Finally, on the river banks we find alder (traditionally used to treat throat ailments), ash (in the past used to feed livestock), poplars and willows.
The area’s most representative mammal is the mountain goat. The males of the species have peculiar horns shaped like a lyre. Besides mountain goats, it is not unusual to see wild boar, weasels, genets, badgers, foxes and rabbits.
A wide range of birds inhabit the area. The birds of prey found here include diurnal species such as the Red Kite, the Black Kite, the Golden Eagle, the Griffon Vulture, the Old World Kestrel…; and nocturnal species such as the Eurasian Eagle Owl, barn owls, strix, etc; members of the corvidae family observed in the vicinity include crows, jackdaws, choughs, magpies and jays.
Of all the birds in the region, the most emblematic is the white stork. Nowadays, this species is showing less and less of a tendency to migrate because it is able to find food year round.
In the streams of Losar de la Vera there are native trout, barbels, minnows and squalius. In the rivers and large ponds we have tench, carp, barbels and black bass.
This profession is closely linked to a particular lifestyle always been past down through families, from one generation to the next. The strong intergenerational bonds resulting from the shared livelihood and way of life make this group unlike any other family unit.
In this profession training is necessarily social, not academic, because the only way to learn the trade is hands-on. The manner in which cabreros carry out their trade has contributed to the consolidation of certain emancipatory practices, through the application of a healthy dose of common sense.
The region’s goatherds also contribute actively to the protection of the environment and they are instrumental in maintaining the ecological balance.
It is unfortunate that they have been unable to maintain their traditional social structure, for various socio-economic reasons. Perhaps today’s technological advances will enable these social groups to flourish once again. It is certainly worth getting to know them in their current state, as they provide a great deal of knowledge about the surroundings, through pleasant conversations laden with anecdotes.