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Calcot onions are small to medium in size, averaging 15-25 centimeters in length and 2-3 centimeters in diameter, and are elongated, slender, and cylindrical in shape. Resembling a green onion or a young leek, Calcot onions have a smooth, juicy, and crisp, white base with small root-like hairs protruding from the base. The white base then transitions into a dark green stalk that is pliable, slightly stringy, and long. Calcot onions are mild when raw and when cooked, they become extremely tender and develop a smoky, slightly sweet, flavor.
Calcot onions are available in the winter through spring.
Calcot onions, botanically a part of the Amaryllidaceae family, is a general name for onions that are produced from a specific growing technique. Calcot onions can be grown from many different varieties with the most popular variety being the common onion or Allium cepa. Favored for their mild, sweet flavor, and tender texture, Calcot onions are registered with an EU Protected Geographical Indication, which is a certification that designates that the onions are grown according to traditional methods from its geographical origin of Spain. These onions are grown from bulbs that were allowed to remain dormant from the previous season and are replanted the following late summer. As the stalks grow, they are covered with dirt to keep the base white and to elongate the shoots. When the stalks are harvested, they are often covered in a thin layer of dirt, known as calcat or shoe in Spanish, and this dirt is kept on during the cooking process to provide a barrier between the open flame and onion.
Calcot onions contain some vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, manganese, flavonoids, and potassium.
Calcot onions are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as grilling and can be used as a substitute in recipes calling for green onions or spring onions. The onions are most commonly flash blanched and then grilled until charred, creating savory caramelization mixed with a sweet flavor. Calcot onions pair well with grilled meats and seafood, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, tomatoes, red pepper, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, parsley, basil, tarragon, fresh cheeses, dairy, and butter. They will keep up to one week when stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
In Spain, the traditional and most popular way of eating Calcot onions is in a calcotada, which is a gastronomical celebration held at the end of winter through spring. Calcot onions are grilled and steamed in newspaper over an open fire of dried grape vines and are then served on terra-cotta plates. The outer layer of the charred onion is removed revealing a tender, succulent, and sweet flesh, and these onions are then served with salvitxada or romesco sauce. The ingredients in the romesco sauce, also known as salsa de los Calcots, varies between households, but the most popular ingredients include ground almonds, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, hazelnuts, parsley, and vinegar. Calcot onions are consumed in massive quantities during this season and are a highly valued tradition in the Catalonia region.
Calcot onions are native to Spain and are believed to have been discovered by a peasant farmer named Xat de Benaiges at the turn of the 20th century. Benaiges planted garden onions and covered them with earth, so a longer portion of the stems remained white and edible. This method is known in Catalan as calçar, a Catalan agricultural term which means to cover the trunk of a plant or vegetable with soil. Today Calcot onions are primarily produced in Spain, but some home gardeners in the United States also use this method to grow the onions in their backyard.
Recipes that include Calcot Onions. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Food 52||The Evasive Calçot and the Promiscuous Romesco|
|Spittoon Extra||Calcot Sauce|