Itxassou holds its Cherry Festival on Sunday
Take advantage of your camping holiday near Itxassou to take part in the Cherry Festival, the “black gold” for which the Basque Country is famous. Come and stock up on cherries and jams on the first Sunday in June, just after the harvest. You’re in for a treat!
Cherry time in Itxassou
Throughout the day, numerous stands, events and activities are on offer. Enjoy a game of Basque pelota and dance the mutxikoak with the txaranga Espelette and Itxassou dancers. The Makilaris will also be on hand to demonstrate the throwing of Makilas, the traditional Basque walking stick. Not forgetting the traditional Basque games of strength, which always impress our campers.
In the middle of the day, a country-style meal is served, with ham piperade, roast suckling lamb or chicken, ewe’s milk cheese and black cherry jam from Itxassou, and Basque cake.
Between two events, local producers will be delighted to introduce you to the best products of the Basque Country, especially the famous cherries and jams made on site in a copper cauldron. The best jams will be judged on color, texture, sugar content and taste.
Find out more about the Itxassou Cherry Festival program!
Cherry in all its forms!
Itxassou cherries are used to make many artisanal products, including jams, vinegars, syrups and digestives. We distinguish the Beltxa, black and juicy, the Xapata, yellow-orange and slightly acidic, and the Peloa, the earliest, sweet as it should be. In jam, its best-known form, it is the perfect accompaniment to sheep’s milk cheese. In a jelly with Espelette pepper, it adds a pleasant spice to lamb-based recipes. It’s also inseparable from the famous Basque cream cake. Hard to resist!
A short detour to the Itxassou conservatory orchard
Near the Itxassou church, you can discover a conservatory orchard set up in 2008 by the “Xapata” growers’ association. It gives an insight into the history, culture and economy of the Itxassou cherry. This fun and educational discovery trail brings together all the local varieties, some of which have practically disappeared, such as Garroa and Markista, thus ensuring their survival.
A little history
The Itxassou cherry is a very old crop, dating back to the 12th century, imported by two Basques returning from Argentina. It is grown in Itxassou, but also in the surrounding villages of Espelette, Bidarray, Macaye, Cambo les Bains and Louhossoa.
But it wasn’t until the 1950s that the Cherry Festival was born, under the impetus of the Itsasuarrak association and the Cherry Brotherhood. Since then, the reputation of the Itxassou cherry has spread far beyond the village boundaries. It can be found in Bayonne, all along the Basque coast, and even as far away as Dax, Pau and Bordeaux. Today, the harvest can reach 20 tons in the best years, with only 6,000 cherry trees under cultivation. This makes the Basque cherry a rare and precious fruit. Harvesting is always done by hand, around 40 days after flowering. To date, producers are hoping to obtain an A.O.P. in the very near future, which would be the icing on the cake!