Chef’s Guide to Calcots

What are calçots?

Calcots (or calçots to give them their true Catalonian spelling) are a type of scallion in the onion family. As a result, in the UK they’re commonly known as calcot onions.

They’re a close relative of the spring onion (said to be a cross between the spring onion and the leek) and they look very similar. The calcot onion is much larger however, with the white edible part of the plant measuring up to 25cm in length and 2.5cm in diameter.

The taste is also similar, but the calçot has a noticeably juicier consistency along with a slightly sweeter taste. So many believe it to be the superior vegetable.

In cooking, calcots can be used in much the same way. They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked into a variety of dishes — from fiery Asian stir fries to hearty soups and warming stews.

What are calçots from?

Calçots are cultivated around the city of Valls in Tarragona, Catalonia. It was in this place that a local Catalonian farmer is said to have started growing them over a century ago.

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Just like other heritage products such as Fenland celery, they hold a Protected Geographical Indication from the EU, meaning that only products grown in this region are true calçots.

They’re so revered in Valls that every year the city hosts calçotada, a winter barbecue to celebrate the cherished calcot harvest.

During a calçotada, the freshly harvested calcot onions are grilled over a hot fire, wrapped in newspaper and served on terracotta tiles. They’re then peeled by hand and dipped into traditional Spanish Romesco sauce before being eaten.

Calcot onions

Following this spectacular starter, a main course of roast lamb, sausage and white beans follows on, with the meal completed by a dessert of oranges and cava.

Throughout the meal the Catalonians also enjoy local red wine. This wine is served in and drank from a porró — a traditional Catalonian wine pitcher with a spout for the wine.

Drinking from these is a challenge in itself… Take a look at the video below:

When are calcots in season?

Calcots are in season between December and March, although the season can sometimes stretch into April.

As always First Choice pride ourselves on being one of the first to market with seasonal heritage products like calçots.

So if you would like to source some for your restaurant, get in touch with our team today.

Calcot onions

Mark Flint

Mark has almost a decade of experience in the marketing world, with most of those spent working in the food industry. After driving digital marketing at one of the industry's largest food suppliers, Mark now supports First Choice with all their website content.

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