Menu especial: Hoy Tenemos.... Gusanos Frito 'Sago' al Pil-Pil
"We've lost hundreds. The beetles have just eaten them up from the inside out". She sighed. "The trees were so old and so tall too."
I'm in Puerto de Santa Maria, across the bay from Cadiz, a town steeped in history and tradition. A town, synonymous with fine wine, with Alfonso El Sabio, with Rafael Alberti and more recently with the decapitation of hundreds of palm trees throughout the town: All due to the presence of the palm weevil.
The beetle - an immigrant from asia - eats out the heart of palm trees, including the coconut palm, date palm and oil palm.
Unknown on the Mediterranean before the 1980s, It gradually spread from country to country, arriving in Spain in 1994.
Eggs laid in crevices or where branches have been pruned and not sealed, hatch lavae that travel deep inside, burrowing into the heart of the palm, eventually causing the death of the tree.
On a positive note: Apparently dogs can now be trained to recognise the unique scent of the beetle in order to detect the presence of the infestations at the earliest possible moment.
Was this fact linked, I thought, to the previous nights presence of the dog training classes on the beach? In most towns in Spain, dogs roam free with owners either at home, or following behind in their car. Yet here, dogs were on leads, well behaved and looking like they had a job to do.
Nothing would surprise me about this town. But there could be an alternative solution to the problem. The Palm larvae are considered a delicacy and reach high prices in parts of Asia. Known as Fried Sago Worms, they could be bred and incorporated into the classical Menu del Dia, with a little imagination and could, stimulate a new tourist market for Asian holiday makers?