Valls welcomes the annual Catalan gastronomic tradition of the ‘Calçotada’

Among the many culinary traditions Catalonia can boast about, the ‘Calçotada’ is one of the most beloved among Catalans. People from all over the territory and in particular those from southern towns such as Valls, eat ‘calçots’ (similar to green onions) with family and friends in special get togethers for the next three months. On January 29th the season kicked off with a festival that brought together 30,000 people.

CNA / Sara Gómez

January 30, 2012 07:47 PM

Valls (ACN).- Every January Catalonia welcomes the ‘Calçotada’, which is a very popular gastronomic tradition carried out in many counties, especially in southern Catalonia. In a ‘calçotada’ people eat a variety of green onions named ‘calçots’, which have been cultivated in a particular way. The traditional way of eating them is grilled, and dipped into an almond and garlic sauce called ‘romesco’. In the southern town of Valls (Tarragona), considered to be the main location to find these special vegetables, the festivity of the ‘Calçotada’ kicks starts the ‘calçots’ season, which usually lasts until April. This year it was celebrated on January 29th and around 30,000 people, with a significant tourist presence, were able to attend the festivity in which more than 100,000 ‘calçots’ were eaten. Among the different activities of the day, the ‘Calçotada’ included ‘calçot’ cooking demonstrations, street markets and music.

The Catalan ‘calçot’

The ‘calçot’ refers to a green onion that is traditionally cultivated in the southern counties of Catalonia, especially in the Alt Camp County and areas near Tarragona and the Delta de l’Ebre, where the mild winters allow the growth of this vegetable. The origin of the Catalan word comes from the verb ‘calçar’, the process of covering the onion sprouts with earth as they grow, so that a longer portion of the stem remains white and edible.

Once the ‘calçots’ are ready, the preparation of the ‘Calçotada’ festivity starts. The vegetables have to first be barbecued in flames and they will be ready only when their outer layers are black and partly open. Then, the ‘calçots’ have to be peeled and eaten dipped in ‘romesco’ sauce together with grilled meat and bread, and accompanied by red wine or Catalan cava.

Valls, capital of ‘calçots’

Every year, the town of Valls, capital of the southern county of the Alt Camp, organises the festivity of the ‘Calçotada’. The ‘calçot’ of Valls is famous for having the European Union Protected Geographical Indication. During the last Sunday of January people in this county gather to celebrate the start of the ‘calçot’ season, which can last until March or April depending on the green onion harvest. The ‘Calçotada’ is a centenary tradition in Catalonia but the festivity organised by Valls’ inhabitants started back in 1982.

A festivity with a wide range of activities

Even though the ‘calçot’ is the main reason for the festivity, which this year took place on January 29th, the town of Valls programmed many other activities to brighten up the 31st edition of the ‘Calçotada’. 30,000 participants and foreign visitors were able to enjoy the street market, folk crafts, music bands and other events related to the vegetables, such as the ‘calçot’ eating contest or the sauce contest, accompanied by live demonstrations.

The internationalisation of a Catalan tradition

This year’s edition of the ‘Calçotada’ included a significant amount of foreign visitors willing to learn the details of the popular festivity. More than 400 American students and a group of Japanese tourists from Nagoia and Tokyo visited Valls on Sunday. According to one of the Japanese participants, they were able to experience the Catalan tradition in its full dimension with very “satisfactory results”.

The town’s Mayor, Albert Batet, highlighted the growing internationalization of the tradition and stated that it has become “one of Catalonia’s most important gastronomic festivities”. “Tourism is one of our economy’s pillars and the ‘Calçotada’ and all that it generates helps Valls grow”, he said.

In the coming months, between 350,000 and 400,000 visitors will be able to enjoy the gastronomic tradition of the ‘Calçotada’. Up to 50 restaurants will offer ‘calçots’ in the area, which, according to last year’s calculations, can generate benefits of €14 million.