El Jable, Lanzarote’s secret treasure
A blanket of organogenous sand makes its way through the wide valley between the Risco de Famara and the villages of Soo and Muñique, creating an unusual landscape with a life of its own.
El Jable is an ecosystem of marine sands that is four kilometres wide, home to endemic flora and fauna and crops like no others in the world. Discover another of our natural treasures through hiking, gastronomy and ethnography.
A bird’s eye view of El Jable
A walk along the line of volcanoes in Soo, in the Chinijo Archipelago Nature Park, is the best way to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of El Jable. First of all, stop for a hearty breakfast at the village teleclub. In Soo it is still possible to find examples of endemic flora such as the jable star onion (Androcymbium psammophilum) or the common iceplant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum), from which soaps and dyes are obtained.
The experience is enriched if you are accompanied by a local guide on the ascent to Pico Colorado. The views allow you to appreciate the Caldera Trasera and, as you wind up the slopes, ancient cisterns, a symbol of Lanzarote’s water culture and traditional architecture.
From the west face of the Montaña de Soo you can see the path to the summit and a panoramic view of El Jable and the ocean. Let the trade winds gently sway you as they move the jable towards La Tiñosa. The mountain descent is no less spectacular and, on the Peña Juan de Hierro, another discovery awaits you: check out the rock engravings featuring a Lybian-Berber script.
Sweet potato, the jewel in the crown
By now, you probably know why Lanzarote’s rugged, human-tamed land offers such high-quality agricultural production. It’s no coincidence.
We have been making sustainable development a reality on the island for centuries, and this is especially evident in the cultivated land. Under heroic conditions, the farmer produces the liquid fruit of La Geria and, in El Jable, the delicacy of dry land: the sweet potato.
This local version of the sweet potato family is so sublime that it has become a symbol of traditional Canary Island cuisine, and for us it is as unthinkable to have a sancocho stew without sweet potato as a Christmas without truchas (sweet pasties). If you are a lover of everything gourmet, you are in luck because the sweet potato plays a starring role in nouvelle cuisine. It is worth trying the sweet potato chips or the sweet potato yolk dessert created by chef Luis León.
And why do we claim it as a unique product? Because it can only be cultivated in one traditional way, in the organogenic sand that is the jable, which naturally conserves the humidity of the little rain that falls in Lanzarote.
El Jable’s wonderful harvest doesn’t end here. Visit one of the traditional Canarian restaurants and order one of the dishes based on pumpkin, papas crías (considered the truffles of the desert), onion, or even watermelon or melon and you will understand why El Jable is one of the island’s best kept treasures.
Pipit, houbara bustard and stone curlew are the three winged residents of El Jable’s Special Protection Area for birds (SPA). If you are an ornithology enthusiast, pack your binoculars because in this semi-desert steppe ecosystem you’ll be able to observe these species, the first two of which are endemic.
The houbara bears the name of bustard, but the fact is, it’s not a bustard at all, but the species Chlamydotis undulata. You’ll have to pay close attention to spot it because, despite its large size, the Canarian houbara bustard flits about the territory in the open field and its rare appearances are a here again, gone again experience.
Berthelot’s pipit (Anthus berthelotii) is a relative of the common pipit, although as distant a relative as two and a half million years of solitary evolution will allow.
A visit to the Batateros
And, in the heart of the island, the welcoming village of San Bartolomé stands proudly, embodying the philosophy of the quiet life of the interior of Lanzarote. Its inhabitants are affectionately known as Batateros, guardians of the jable crops. A visit to the Tanit Ethnographic Museum is a must if you want to soak up the ancestral culture that is still alive on the island.
If you’re someone who likes to know a little more about the places you visit, San Bartolomé offers an almost inexhaustible supply of historical testimonies: José María Gil’s gofio mill, the Casa Ajei or the Casa Mayor Guerra, which was the governor’s house during Lanzarote’s se˚ñorial past. One last suggestion: before leaving the village, enjoy an enyesque (snack) under the flame tree on the terrace of the Plaza de la Iglesia, and take the opportunity to take a look at the billboard of the municipal theatre. The Batateros love the stage.
After so many emotions, you’ll want to take a little piece of El Jable home with you in your backpack. It’s hard to leave the love you’ve only just met. The good news is that the farmers bring their organic produce to the island’s markets.
In Lanzarote, we reserve Sundays for Teguise, which hosts the most important street market in the Canary Islands. Tinajo also holds a farmers’ market in Mancha Blanca, in front of the Los Dolores hermitage. On Saturdays, the craft market in Haría is a good excuse to get to know this beautiful village where César Manrique spent his last years.
In Arrecife, the Church of San Ginés serves as the setting for the Saturday morning farmers’ market, where we like to hang out with the locals in one of the small terraces and taverns in the seaside area. Naturally, San Bartolomé also holds a craft market on the first Sunday of the month.
Warning: you’ll be tempted to pick up wine, jams, sea salt, onions, Lanzarote lentils, aloe vera and more… But it would be better to go home without too much luggage and just come back to the island soon. We’ll be waiting for you here.