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The Majos, the pre-hispanic original inhabitants of Lanzarote, lived on the delicacies which the sea provided them with, as well by cultivating the land and rearing animals. As excellent swimmers they 'harvested' much of their food from the sea, above all sea food such as abalone, mussels and starfish. As on the other Canary Islands they caught fish by driving entire swarms into shallow waters, where they were stupefied by euphorbia. Agricultural products included in particular cereals such as wheat, barley and oats, which were roasted to produce 'gofio', a basic foodstuff which even today forms part of many dishes on the island. Meat was obtained mainly from the rearing of goats.
Upon the arrival of the conquerors non-indigenous species of animal and plant were brought to the Canary Islands. The islanders owe their local nickname of 'conejeros' (conejo = rabbit) to the uncontrolled proliferation of rabbits which followed.
There was also cultivation of chickpeas, lentils and onions, with the latter even being used as spoons for eating the 'escaldón de gofio' (a traditional fish soup with 'gofio'). Maize from America has also played a major role in the traditional cuisine and customs of the islands.
The volcanic eruptions of the 18th century changed agricultural practices in Lanzarote. The newly-created layer of soil turned out to be highly fertile. Fruit and vegetables flourished and the mineral rich soil gave them an excellent taste. Farmers produced them by removing the volcanic ash, also referred to as 'picón' or 'lapilli', planting the seedlings in the soil and then covering them up again with the black ash. The growing plants were protected from the sun and wind by deep troughs in the ground. The 'picón' aided cultivation in a number of ways, absorbing the moisture from the trade winds and the morning dew and protecting it from evaporation during the course of the day. With its black hills and valleys this highly aesthetic landscape characterises the island of Lanzarote as a natural work of art.