Products & Producers

O Paparico and H2Douro - Love for the earth

The day was warm and bright. The Douro has in itself a unique and astonishing beauty. We made our way happily and before we noticed we were in front of a red terracotta gate. On the other side, we were signalled to enter as the doors of Quinta do Fojo opened. We were welcomed with a contagious smile that contained in it a hearty "welcome home". And that is how we felt from the beginning to the end of this visit, which lasted all afternoon but lingered in our minds until today when we expressed it in words.
 
Mr José, an innate host, immediately took care to seat us and give us a taste of the wine he had proudly produced. "It's only for friends!" - he told us in a good mood and with the cheerful voice of someone who is pleased to host. He promptly shared with us a brief presentation of the property and of his (practically) unique project in Portugal.  H2Douro is dedicated to agricultural production and the breeding of some Portuguese native species at Quinta do Fojo. Its relationship with O Paparico has lasted for over a decade and is expected to last. This symbiosis between the two is perceived by the frankly remarkable connection between Mr José and Chef Rúben Santos.
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Migrated from the construction industry to the agricultural world, it was in 2009 that the idea for this project emerged. But it was only in 2010 that everything he had been researching and studying about the planting of microgreens was put into practice. Mr José began his activity by growing his first vegetables in the dining room of his home in Oporto. It lasted a year until he improved the technique and decided that he could venture into open ground. In 2011, he started his activity and built the first module of the greenhouse. Today, he already has 11.5 hectares of land dedicated to the cultivation and to raising of native breed animals, such as black and yellow hens, pigeons and sheep.
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There is a part of the land that is bordered by a property that served the purpose of cultivation over 50 years ago, which is nothing more than an agroforestry space, where nature has gifted him with the resurgence of all the indigenous flora. "It was a happy coincidence... there you can harvest everything that is an edible wild plant, edible wildflowers, edible wild mushrooms... It is a space that we don't want to cultivate. We want to keep it like this because a lot of that native wild flora has resurfaced, like laurel trees, oregano, other edible plants, namely dandelions, wild chard, marujas... we have a bit of everything." - the farmer said cheerfully.
 
Of the 11.5 hectares belonging to Mr José, there are 7 that have been split into equal parts. On one of them, most of the fruit is grown, as well as small fruits, such as blackberry, redcurrant, raspberry, crisp grape, lemon, lime, strawberries, regional apple, Queen Claúdia plum, and also two qualities of new potatoes, carton and ratte, garrafal onion, broad beans, peas, tomatoes and other aromatics such as rosemary, thyme, fennel, elderberry. The other half of the land is reserved for the organic production of animal feed.
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It is easy to understand that this system obeys an idea of self-sustainability. "It's really a cycle that is closed in-house. A large part of the animals' food is produced on the farm itself. Their manure is used to fertilise the fields. Fertiliser consumption is extremely low here because of that. The animals themselves, the sheep and the chickens, gnaw away at what is of no use for cultivation". - explains José.
 
This concept of an agricultural house - as one might say, the old farmer's house - is where the pillars of the Quinta do Fojo are based. Here we can find the vegetable component, the animal component and also some of the transformations of products for conservation and consumption during the year. What's new here is the way this business has come to the market. "The old farmer isolates himself a lot, he doesn't leave the farm. He stays very self-enclosed." - the producer told us. And this was where H2Douro innovated. Since the beginning of its activity, the way it found to reach its clients was - to use the expression - door-to-door knocking.
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Nowadays, there is also the possibility of using social media and its website for publicity and advertising, but, above all, its fame is due to the good references shared among the hospitality professionals with whom it works. Also, the fact that it has an internal transport network, which respond to all orders in the Greater Oporto area, boosts the proximity it has with its customers. Direct contact with chefs and cooks means it has first-hand knowledge of the market's needs and is therefore able to adapt its crop. For long-distance deliveries, he relies on subcontracting transport companies, which he confessed to be a headache.

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The partnership between O Paparico and H2Douro has more than a decade of existence, as, in fact, it was already mentioned above. It all started with a visit by Mr José to the restaurant. Accompanied by his cardboard suitcase, where he carried samples of his microgreens. "The first person I spoke to was Sérgio (Cambas). One day I went and knocked at the restaurant's door with the cardboard suitcase, I took the samples... and it remained." - Mr José says. When asked what kind of client O Paparico is for him, he explains:  "O Paparico is a constant client, sometimes he orders more, sometimes less, sometimes more of one product, sometimes another, but that's normal. It's a client as it should be, demanding. I prefer it that way. And there's another thing that I also value, which is the regularity of orders". One of the points that the producer mentioned was, precisely, that deliveries are made on a daily basis. This is why the quality of the products is, without the slightest doubt, excellent. This fact was confirmed almost in unison by both our Chef Rúben Santos and the producer.

 

"You simply cannot get any fresher than this. It is harvested on the day, delivered on the day and eaten on the day!"

- Sr. José

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It is important to reinforce the idea that the synergy between the two companies is very rewarding for both. The growth of one directly impacts the development of the other. Both participants confessed that this direct contact between the two, the delivery of the orders in the kitchen, the conversations about the products, have led to the consolidation of a closer relationship and make the challenge constant. Whether in the cultivation or in the execution and use of the products.
 
It was in a peaceful and friendly atmosphere that we concluded our visit, with the promise of returning soon. To Mr José, we leave a special word of gratitude for all the hospitality and the sharing of knowledge and wisdom.