The elongated onion known as calçot is produced above all in the southern region of Tarragona and has become an iconic dish in Catalan gastronomy. Calçots are planted in furrows and grown underground and are mostly harvested in late winter, although the season goes into spring. It is said that calçots were discovered when a farmer realised that the white onion-like plants growing on his land were delicious when cooked over an open fire. The rest is history, and the calçot has become an annual, and affordable, delicacy.
As mentioned, calçots are usually roasted over an open fire until their outer layer becomes charred. Then it’s time to get your hands dirty as you pull away the blackened outer layer to reveal the tender white interior that you dip in Romesco sauce before being lowering it into your open mouth. Eating calçots is a dirty business but also fun, and each year thousands of people from all over Catalonia make the trip to Tarragona to gorge on authentic calçots.
Calçots slip down the gullet well, which makes them the ideal food for eating competitions. In fact, every year the festival known as the Gran Festa de la Calçotada takes place in the Tarragona city of Valls, the epicentre of calçots, and includes a contest at the end of January to see who can eat the most calçots in one sitting. This year’s contest was once again won by the Barcelona native, Adrià Wegrzyn, who devoured 3.13 kg of calçots – or 221 of the vegetables – to secure his 12th title in the popular eating competition. Meanwhile, the festival attracted 20,000 visitors all keen to try and buy Valls’ most famous delicacy.