Strange bulb festival called Brigalhó

Strange bulb festival called Brigalhó

This year again and for the 17th time, the parish of Curral das Freiras organizes its ‘Mostra do Brigalhó’.

Canary Lord-and-Ladies

But you may ask: “what is a brigalho?” It is a plant called Canary Lord-and-Ladies (Botanical name: Arum italicum ssp. Canariensis) The brigalho is the rarest of all Arum italicum subspecies. It makes green to dark green, arrow shaped leaves, sometimes with silvery to yellow markings along the veins. The plant grows in clumps and has extensive roots and reproduces from seeds and bulbs.  It grows wild in shady places.

The main purpose of the event besides the fact that Madeirans love to celebrate, is to honor a special plant. Even most Madeirans do not know the brigalho. However, in great times of need and raging hunger and due to the geographical isolation of the parish in times past, the brigalho was one of the few foods available. Hence, when food was scarce, brigalho killed the hunger.

Cultural Heritage

According to the president of the Casa do Povo: “the brigalhó has, above all, a cultural value, representing a period in which food shortages were many here”. Worth noting is that this plant endemic to Macaronesia, with presence in the archipelagos of Madeira, Azores and Canaries, has a very low nutritional value.

Preparation

In Curral das Freiras, the brigalhó grows spontaneously, especially between March and June. Sowing in not needed for its propagation. The tuber or bulbs, very similar to yam, only becomes edible after cooking for 24 hours.

From soil to plate

During the festival, one can witness the entire process of preparation of this tuber, from the soil collection, washing, cooking preparation and final product. The local restaurants will also include specialties with brigalho on their menu in order to promote the product and show its versatility.