"Calçots" attract more audience each year. The feast of tender chives
The Calçot is a tender onions, white and sweet, which roasted on the grill with romesco sauce, is the basis of Calçotada. Until end of March you can find in many restaurants a special menu based on "calçots", sausages, meats, wine and desserts. Each year it attracts thousands of fans and it has become the economic base of an entire region. His season is from February to March. However, high temperatures and the business perspectives have advanced the season, which opens formally with the "Calçotada de Valls", the last Sunday of January. The calçot boom is extending the season, even after Easter.
The "calçots"are roasted and they are wrapped in newspaper to keep them warm. Served over a hot shingle, which function is also to maintain the heat, and with the hand the scorched external layer is removed and, before be consumed, the Calçot is smeared into "romesco" or "salbitxada" sauce.
Both sauces are very similar with only minor differences. Basically, "salbitxada" does not include hazelnuts, just almonds and a little minced parsley, which is not used in the sauce romesco.
Tradition says that just 100 years ago, Xat de Benaiges, a farmer from Valls in Tarragona Province, was who first time roasted tender onions on a blazing fire instead on the embers. It is not known if he did as the result of an bright occurrence of an error feeding the fire. Xat remoe ther onion charred end and invented the Calçot, which now attracts thousands of tourists and the locals love them.
The calçot word comes from the Catalan verb and means cover with ground the foot of the trees, and like the asparagus, soil is piled around the onions shoots to grow elongated, white and tender. Cultivation lasts for almost a whole year: they are planted during February, at late July, they are digged up, sorted and planted again.
Good Calçot must have a foot with an intense white color, be consistent, no breaks in wires when you eat, and be in the right point of sweetness. As the season progresses, the Calçot is taking more consistency, reduces the water percentage and it reaches a more intense flavor.
The "calçots" covered by the appellation of origin should measure between 15 and 25 centimeters long and have a diameter of 1.7 to 2.5 centimeters. They are marketed in bundles of 25 or 50 units.
The harvest usually begins in November and ends in April, although the season is from February to March, but it has been extended due to the success they have. This year, high temperatures, unusual for this time, and the generous rains of late summer have advanced the arrival of theses spring onions. It is expected a major "calçots" campaign.
The "Consell Regulador IGP" of "Calçot de Valls" predicts that this year it could even be exceeded the record of 2004, the year in which it was sold 4.5 million of pieces. The production area comprises the Catalan regions of Alt Camp, Baix Camp, Tarragona and the Baix Penedes and its cultivation is done under the Protected Geographical Indication "Calçot de Valls". It is estimated that only in the demarcation of Tarragona grow about 20 million of "calçots", of which only 25% have a denomination of origin and are marketed under the label of the IGP.
It is so important, that many restaurants would not survive without the "calçots" because nearly 300,000 people yearly pilgrimage to the region to enjoy them. A just single bussines can cook in a season more than 200,000 chives.
The calçot season is not officially open until late January with the "Calçotada de Valls", the last Sunday of January. The historic center of the city is filled with a white smoke, while the air permeates the sweet smell of roasted "calçots". Around one o'clock, in the Plaza del Oli, it is celebrated the popular taste. However, for many restaurants the season begins on October 12th, coinciding with el Pilar Feast.