Fruit and vegetables for the colony

Fruit and vegetables for the colony
Early 20th century. Gibraltar. «Bayside lagoon». Sketch by Gil Joseph Podesta from his book ‘Sketches of Old Gibraltar’ (2001).

Fruit and vegetables for the colony

When the town of La Línea was founded, the municipality had 150 vegetable gardens which supplied the military and civilian population of Gibraltar. Until the end of the 2oth century, the Bay of Algeciras and nearby villages grew fruit and vegetables traditional in the British diet. Some, such as radishes, beetroot, maize, strawberries, and turnips were not really part of the Cádiz diet until the late 20th century.

The small allotments were irrigated with a system of small brick channels which ran from a ditch, a well or a waterwheel. In most allotments, the water was taken by hand in petrol cans or tea urns. The allotments were protected from the strong local winds with reed (Poaceae) palisades and natural agave (Agave americana) and prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) fences. Francisco Gil had a vegetable stall in La Línea market in the late 1940s: «Many people bought stuff to sell in Gibraltar and they brought other things from there. That market sold more for Gibraltar than for consumption in La Línea».

The carts laden with vegetables crossed the border every day and drove around the streets of the city. Gil Joseph’s sketch reproduces a scene by a lagoon in the isthmus that no longer exists, which older locals remember. Gil noted next to the sketch: «In the evening, after the difficult descent down the step and narrow streets of Gibraltar, the peddlers free their mules and horses from the carts and wash them in the lagoon by the gatehouse, before returning to Spain».