Located between Andalusia and the Valencian Community, the Region of Murcia consists of a single province. Both are named after their capital city, Murcia. Nearly half of the region's 1.5 million inhabitants live in the Murcia metropolitan area.
The Murcian region is almost entirely made of mountains (Baetic Ranges), intramountainous depressions and plateaux. It is the only part of Spain that has a semiarid Mediterrarean climate. The exceptional 330 days of sunshine that the region enjoys, combined with modern drip irrigation techniques, have contributed to make of Murcia the Huerta de Europa ('orchard and vegetable garden of Europe', as the region likes to dub itself), producing up to five harvests in a year. Nearly 15% of Europe's vegetables and 30% of Spain's fruits come from Murcia. The region's top produces are lettuce, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, lemons, peaches, grapes, melons and plums.
The Costa Cálida ('Warm Coast'), Murcia's 250 km of coastline, is appropriately named for the region's hot and dry climate. The main seaside resorts are Cartagena, Mazarrón and Águilas.
Like in Valencia and Catalonia, rice dishes and seafood are an essential part of Murcian cuisine. Local specialties include arroz caldero (rice with fish from the Mar Menor), arroz con habichuela (rice with beans), arroz y conejo (rice with rabbit), arroz y costillejas (rice with ribs), ensalada murciana (salad of cooked tomatoes, boiled eggs, tuna, sweet onions, black olives and olive oil), michirones (dry beans dish cooked with ham, sausages, potatoes and laurel), paella huertana (vegetable paella), pastel de carne (round pastry filled with meat, tomato and egg), revuelto de huevo (scrambled eggs with runner beans, garlic, onions and ham), zarangollo (scrambled eggs with courgettes, onions, and occasionally potatoes).
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