V. SOWING AND CARING FOR THE CROPS
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Sowing and planting
Different techniques have been used where directly sowing the seeds, consisting of basically placing them in holes or in rows that have been already made, as will be seen in the later sections of this chapter, or by scattering them by hand which is the most usual method.
In the latter case, when the seeds are small, it is difficult to see them when they land on the earth which makes it difficult for the sowing to be uniform. This problem is overcome by using plant remains to mark out the routes, which means the sower can move along them using the marks as reference and thus guaranteeing that the seeding is done correctly.
Crops for human consumption
Preference has been give to the crops for human consumption, but it must be remembered that some of them have also been used in animal feed and that the remains were also used to feed the livestock.
Cereals were and continue to be an essential part of the human diet. The white land where cereal and mainly wheat are grown predominate in La Llanada Alavesa, La Rioja Alavesa, Navarra Media and the Ribera del Ebro.
Growing cereals gradually fell into disuse throughout the 20th century, with the last to disappear being the most used of all, wheat. Another cereal, corn, which was better adapted to the damp conditions of this part of the territory gained considerably in importance, even though it also has declined in recent decades and is mainly used for animal feed.
Pulses and beans
Pulses and beans have been eaten since ancient times. They were the first vegetable products to come into use and earlier than cereals.
At least since the 17th century, pulses and beans were usually alternated with cereals and had a dual role: to enrich the land in crop rotations and used to feed the livestock and people.
This section includes the vegetables where the part used is grown underground, either the root, as in the case of carrots, parsnips and beetroot, the stem, such as asparagus and potatoes, which are tubers that are the thickened part of the underground stems of the potato plant, or the leaves, which include leeks, onions and garlic.
Above the ground vegetables
This section includes the vegetables whose edible part grows above ground. They are grouped according to whether the leaves, flower or fruit are eaten.
In the past, plants were grown in the corners of the vegetable plots that were used as medicine for the dwellers of the farmstead or for their livestock. They were sometimes not planted and grew wild, but were not pulled out given their usefulness. It was not a widespread practice, but rather just of some families.
With the passing of the decades, the practice fell into disuse as the traditional treatments began to be overlooked. However, there has been a strong resurgence among the supporters of organic farming and not only from the perspective of being used as medicine for humans, but also from a new perspective: using plants to cure plants or to prevent or limit the pests attacking them. There are also people who grow decorative species with the same protective power for that very reason.
Tobacco was the first to be grown. In recent times, there has been a trend among young people to grow and consume varieties of hemp with psychotropic effects – marihuana or maria.
The tradition of fermenting some vegetables to obtain alcoholic beverages has always existed in our culture. Turning grapes into wine or txakoli and apple into cider were the traditional methods. Those processes are extensively considered in other chapters of this volume. Once alcohol began to be sold at an affordable price on the market, some fruit began to be macerated to make alcoholic beverages, with pacharán being the best known.
Crops for livestock
In the Carranza Valley (B), the annual cycle of the crops for livestock, particularly for cattle, was, broadly speaking as follows: After the turnips ended, there was the ryegrass, which was mown until sowing took place. And when that ended, green grass would be available. As well as the cows being turned out on graze on the grass, it was also mown to be dried as hay for the winter. As there were usually more land than cows, when the green grass ended, the retoño or new fresh grass in the first fields that had been mown. After the retoño, they were fed pajilla or unripened corn. After the corn, which was harvested in stages, first the pajapunta or upper part of the plant, then the leaves, and after removing the panojas or cobs, the palitroques. Once the corn had run out, the nabiza (turnip tops) and later the turnips would be harvested, thus completing the cycle.
Industrial crops are those that cannot be consumed directly and their transformation gives a much better yield for commercial distributors. Therefore, they are crops that require larger plots of land, with each plot usually being between 1 and 15 hectares. They are usually found on the Mediterranean side of the watershed in the Basque Country, where there is more arable farming and where there has been greater mechanisation and intensification of the crops.
Caring for the crops
Once the crop had germinated and a certain time after it was planted, certain tasks had to be carried out to ensure its optimum development: weeding, tillage, irrigating, etc., with weeding being the most common one.
- White land is where cereals are grown. José María IRIBARREN. Vocabulario navarro. Pamplona: 1977, p. 510.