Courses at the quinta

The fires of October 2017 which destroyed all of our guest and volunteer accommodation and facilities brought the focus very clearly onto the urgency of our present global situation and the need to dramatically improve eco-literacy. Since then, we have been working like crazy to restore buildings and infrastructure and get the quinta into a fit state to function as an environmental education centre.

The sad reality is that we are in danger of perishing from our own stupidity and lack of responsibility to life. If we become extinct because of factors beyond our control, then we can at least die with pride in ourselves, but to create a mess in which we perish by our own inaction makes nonsense of our claims to consciousness and morality.
Bill Mollison

In 2019, we created a 6 week programme of back-to-back courses during June and July.

We were delighted to hook up with with Circle Permaculture to offer a full 72-hour certificated Permaculture Design Course endorsed by the Permaculture Association UK. The course was a great success and will become a semi-annual event from 2020.

Students on the Permaculture Design Certificate course making compost

Immediately before the PDC, there was a week-long Foraging & Fermentation course, bringing in our local wild edible specialists.

Cooking up foraged food on the Foraging & Fermentation course

Following the PDC there was a week-long Post-PDC Practical Course to cement and ground some of that prodigious amount of theory.

Mixing cob during the Post-PDC Practical

Then there was a 2-week long Natural Build-in to construct a new vermicomposting toilet at the quinta, culminating in a one-day Vermicomposting Toilet workshop to commission the sanitation system.

These courses were simply and fundamentally motivated by our need to reconnect with Nature and harmonise ourselves with natural processes. So as well as providing education about natural systems, we worked in natural ways, using self-organisation and feedback loops as our defining framework to retune our ways of thinking as well as our skills and knowledge.

Food is mostly organic and in season, sourced from the quinta and local growes

Although the courses are finished for this current year, it was such a brilliant and encouraging start to the quinta's career, we're already planning next year's programme. Keep an eye on this page or sign up for our newsletter below if you're interested in joining us.

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Foraging & Fermentation Course 2019

June 17 - June 21

Quinta do Vale is partnering with two local wild food specialists, Clio Wondrausch and Laura Williams, to host a FORAGING & FERMENTATION COURSE during June 2019.

Foraging is a whole lot more than grabbing some free food on a walk in the countryside. It reconnects people with nature in a profound and beautiful way. As Monica Wilde puts it, “Once you can identify plants, appreciate their culinary and medicinal values, and the wondrous ways in which nature works its sentient biochemical magic, you are left with a deep awe and respect for nature, the plants, the fungi, the algae and all living things. When you are reconnected to nature in this most intimate way, your passion for this Earth becomes a love affair.”

Learn to readily identify local wild edibles on walks with Laura and Clio, and with me on and around Quinta do Vale. You not only get the benefit of 3 different people’s knowledge and experience with these plants, but have your identification skills thoroughly reinforced. We’ll make some delicious dishes with what we collect and combine them with cultivated foods to make all manner of ferments.

Explore the role of fermentation in food preparation, its health benefits, and the many forms fermented food can take. We’ll prepare sauerkrauts, salsas, kvass, kimchis, sodas and beers, sourdough breads, kombuchas, kefirs … And as the week progresses, we’ll explore our growing sensitivity to the wisdom of the plant world by letting our collective imaginations loose to try new combinations of flavours and techniques. Those living locally can take some away with them (and anyone else who can fit them into their luggage). And we hope to have a good range of sample ferments for you to try to inspire our creative endeavours.

Here’s a taster of what we’ll be doing …

  • Day 1, we will introduce you to Quinta do Vale and some of the wild edibles growing here, prepare a wild feast for lunch, and in the afternoon learn about and prepare a range of basic salt-based ferments.
  • Day 2, we spend all day with Clio Wondrausch at her quinta, being guided around her land, learning about her favourite wild edibles and how to identify and use them, and ending the day preparing and eating some of them.
  • Day 3 we do the same with Laura Williams at her quinta.

By this point in the course, you should be familiar with and confident in identifying a wide range of wild plants growing at this time of year, know their properties and benefits, and feel suitably inspired to take this knowledge into the kitchen and start experimenting.

  • Day 4 we do just that, along with learning about and putting together some fermented drinks – wild sodas and beers, kombuchas, kefirs and kvass.
  • Day 5 we continue to get creative and round up our exploration of fermentation by introducing sourdoughs and fermented batters, nut and seed cheeses and bean ferments.

Each day we’ll learn the basic principles and recipes for each type of fermentation, but there will be plenty of room for allowing inspiration to run riot.

Foraging & fermentation course at Quinta do Vale

Common sorrel or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa), wonderful in salads and sauces and with many herbal uses

I don’t pretend to be any sort of ‘expert’, but fermentation and wild food have been been mainstays of quinta cuisine for many years. It’s just a normal part of life. This is how it was in our past and how it needs to be again if we’re to recover our deep relationship to the Earth that sustains us. Some of my discoveries were entirely accidental. Others learned from others. All have been improved by experimentation and regular use. My sources of inspiration are mostly the plants themselves and what pops into my head in the moment, but I also follow Dearbhla Reynolds, Sandor Ellix Katz and Pascal Baudar.

Foraging & fermentation course at Quinta do Vale

Making kimchi

The foraging & fermentation course runs between June 17th to 21st 2019. If you’re staying with us, then you can come from June 16th to 22nd. (Weekends are kept free for arrivals and departures and exploring the area or enjoying the many other events and activities which go on here throughout the summer.) You can also stay on for the Permaculture Design Course which runs at Quinta do Vale from June 23rd to July 7th immediately afterwards.

Families are welcome, though the course isn’t suitable for very young children.

Foraging & fermentation course at Quinta do Vale

A selection of ferments at Quinta do Vale


Accommodation will be onsite camping at Quinta do Vale.

There is one 4-berth caravan, suitable for a couple, a few friends or a family.

2 campervans can be accommodated. Spaces will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. One pitch has solar electricity and water, the other doesn’t.

Otherwise please bring a tent. We have level, purpose-built pitches.

Three meals a day are provided, mostly organic. There will be fresh food in season from the quinta and other local organic producers, dried staples from our local wholefood coop, and the remainder from local markets. We will share the cooking. All diets can be catered for. Please make your food preferences clear at the time of booking.

We have hot (solar-heated) showers and composting toilets. There is abundant off grid electricity for phone/tablet/laptop charging and course participants have the use of refrigeration/kitchen facilities/laundry plus the social/hang out space in the communal building and any evening activities (movies, etc) we might put on.

For more details about the quinta and the immediate area, see the quinta page and the volunteering page.

At the end of the day, you can swim and relax at the river beach in the village below the quinta, take advantage of the free wifi at the open air café nearby, explore the area, meet the locals and other eco-residents, get involved in Benfeita events and generally experience life off grid in a still-beautiful mountain landscape, even though it was decimated by fires in October 2017.

What to bring

  • comfortable clothes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
  • sturdy shoes
  • a swimsuit for the nearby river beach
  • tent (if camping), bedding and sleeping bag
  • flashlight/torch
  • ecological body care products
  • note book and pens/pencils
  • musical instruments!
Foraging & fermentation course at Quinta do Vale

Sourdough bread rising


Costs per adult camping onsite for the foraging & fermentation course, accommodation and meals are 296€ per person. Young people 12-18 years are half price.

Accompanying adults not taking part in the course but staying onsite are also half price. Under 12s stay free.

Local people wishing to join the course but returning home at the end of the day can attend for a daily rate of 35€.

The caravan can be booked for an additional 50€ per adult with 12-18 year-olds half rate and under 12s free. It’s available for a maximum of 4 people (excluding infants who don’t require a separate bed) booking together. Bedding is not supplied.

There is a 10% non-refundable deposit payable at the time of booking to secure your place. There are only 10 places available so we encourage you to book early as we expect the course to fill fast. Once your booking form is submitted, we’ll email you further details and your place will be confirmed when your deposit is received. The balance will be due one month before your arrival.

Foraging & fermentation course at Quinta do Vale

Delicious and nutritious chickweed (Stellaria media), also a herbal ingredient in soothing creams for eczema

I make learning opportunities and the facilities at the quinta available in good faith, but at your own risk. Accidents happen so please make sure you have adequate and appropriate health and travel insurance and are covered against injury to others as well as yourself.

The steep slopes, narrow steps, unguarded ponds and terrace edges can make the quinta a hazardous place for young children unused to this environment, so please be aware of and prepared for this if you want to bring young children.


Please see the Getting here page.

If you would like to be collected from the nearest long-distance bus stop at Catraia de Mouronho, which is half an hour’s distance from the quinta, we ask for a contribution of 15€ per journey. Please check the option on the booking form below.


If you are making a booking for a couple, family or group, please list the names (and ages if under 18) and dietary preferences of the other members of your party


Quinta do Vale
Benfeita, Coimbra 3305-031 Portugal + Google Map

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