Spanish vegetable preserves. Juan Manuel Sanz/©ICEX
Food conservation has always been a prime concern for mankind. In Spain, before the development of the food preservation industry in the middle of the 19th century, the most widely-used methods were salting, and immersion in animal fats, olive oil or vinegar.
As from 1810, word gradually spread about the discoveries and experiments made by Nicolas Appert in France on food canning and preservation, leading to the development of the preservation industry in many other European countries. In Spain, the first fish canning plant opened up in Asturias in 1828 and the first vegetable canning plant in La Rioja in the 1840s.
Food preservation is now a well-developed sector in Spain and one that enjoys great prestige. Canned products of all types are enormously popular and many are considered gourmet class. Spaniards preserve a wide range of products in cans and glass jars, often using nothing but the best for this purpose, such as prime vegetables, pulses and fruits picked from Spain’s excellent market gardens and orchards.
Murcia, on the south-east coast of Spain and the Ebro valley in the north and north-east share the leading position as producers of vegetable preserves, with peppers, asparagus, artichokes and pulses being the most important. Many tomato preserves are also produced and distributed all over Spain.
A special case amongst vegetable preserves are the famous Piquillo de Lodosa peppers. These are almost inedible when fresh but, after roasting, hand peeling and canning, they become an outstanding delicacy with a silky texture and complex flavor - sweet, fragrant and just slightly hot.
This exceptional variety of pepper - short, bright red triangles - is now grown in a number of Spanish regions but originally was from Lodosa in the Ribera Baja district in Navarre, where the best quality peppers come from. Since 1987, these have been protected by the Designation of Origin Pimiento del Piquillo de Lodosa.
A Pantry Full of Vegetables
Another well-known variety of pepper used for canning are those from Nájera (La Rioja), which are the basis for the PGI Pimiento Riojano. They are grown practically all over La Rioja but top quality comes from the Ebro river valley. These peppers are conical, with a slightly rough surface and the color is red or green or a mixture of the two. They are roasted, then peeled, and canned in their own juices.
In the Bierzo district in the province of León (Castile-León) and along the border with Ourense (Galicia), peppers have been grown since the 17th century. The Bierzo peppers are ideal for roasting or grilling. After peeling, they are preserved in their own juices, sometimes with the addition of olive oil and lemon juice. Their outstanding quality has earned them the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Pimiento Asado del Bierzo.
Another vegetable with great gastronomic value that is often canned is asparagus. Although it was much-praised by the ancient peoples inhabiting the Mediterranean area, it was then relegated to a role as a medicinal plant and only returned to royal tables as a delicacy in the 18th century.
In order to find the best canned asparagus, we turn back to the Ribera del Ebro. The growing and production area covers various districts in La Rioja, Aragón and Navarre, which are covered by the PGI Espárrago de Navarra.
Asparagus is also grown for canning in other parts of Spain. The province of Granada (Andalusia) is home to the PGI Espárrago de Huétor-Tájar. This asparagus is a purplish green, similar to wild asparagus, and comes from selected native varieties. Other stalk vegetables such as cardoon and borage are also canned, mostly in the Ribera del Ebro area (La Rioja, Navarre and Aragón).
Another vegetable that is considered a delicacy in the canned version is the artichoke. Those from Tudela in Navarre are very much in demand, both fresh and canned, the latter either as whole hearts or halves. They are covered by the PGI Alcachofa de Tudela.
Spain's varied climate and landscape also allow for the cultivation of many fruits so, unsurprisingly, Spain is one of Europe's main producers and exporters of canned fruit. Production mostly takes place in the region of Murcia, with mandarins, apricots, pears and peaches being the most important. Some sub-tropical fruits such as mango and papaya are also produced in canned form.
Fruit preserves are mostly sent for export. This makes it necessary for the sector to carry out constant innovation and development with regard to both the technology used and the product range, which has to remain in line with market trends.
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- Alcachofa de Tudela PGI
- Espárrago de Huétor-Tájar PGI
- Espárrago de Navarra PGI
- Grelos de Galicia PGI
- Pimiento Asado del Bierzo PGI
- Pimiento del Piquillo de Lodosa PDO
- Pimiento Riojano PGI
7th (Source: FAO)
627 (Source: Alimarket)