They call it a potato, but it is actually a root with a high nutritional value. In Aljezur there is an entire festival dedicated to it, where local chefs reinvent the tuberous root.
The biggest autumn gastronomic festival in the south of Portugal, the Aljezur Sweet Potato Festival usually takes place in the Algarvean town at the end of November. The event sets out to awaken the senses and to draw people to the heart of the Vicentine Coast.
The protected Lira
Only in Aljezur can this root fulfil the requirements to be produced in “inimitable” conditions. In 2009, the association that represents the Aljezur producers was granted PGI certification. The sweet potato, with the guarantee seal, is confined to the parishes of São Teotónio, São Salvador, Zambujeira do Mar, Longueira/Almograve and Vila Nova de Milfontes. The Lira variety is picked only once a year, between September and mid-November, with the best quality available until April.
The particularities of the soil and the climate result in a product of unparalleled taste and textures, which allow for the most varied gastronomic reinventions. It is sweeter, its texture is soft and not too stringy, and when eaten raw its taste is like that of a chestnut. Sweet or savoury, the sweet potato can be found in kitchens all over the world, including at the hands of the most renowned contemporary chefs.
The potato that is good for you
Those who eat it know its unique characteristics, and nutritionists say that it contains high nutritional interest. It has a low glycaemic index, helps to control diabetes, aids in weight loss and prevents anaemia. It reduces cholesterol, regulates blood pressure and strengthens the immune system. It is an important source of complex carbohydrates, iron, calcium, vitamins A, C and E, and plays an important role in the formation of collagen.