A native vegetable to Catalonia, is the calçot. A cross between a spring onion and leek, the season for them only lasts a few weeks from the beginning of January until around March. During this time, Catalans throughout the region, celebrate the vegetable by holding calçotadas – calçot parties, where the vegetables are grilled on open fires. The small town of Valls, near Tarragona, is so obsessed with calçots, that it even holds a calçotada festival, which features growing competitions, eating competitions, fares, parades and traditional music. At lunchtime, everyone in town gathers together to eat grilled calçots dipped in romesco sauce (made from garlic, almonds, roasted red peppers and olive oil), wearing bibs.
The O Grove Seafood Festival is held on the small peninsula of O Grove, just off the coast of Galicia, and is one of the best and most famous seafood festivals in the whole of Spain. Taking place every year around October 12, it features seafood cooking competitions, eating competitions, seafood markets, cooking demonstrations and sculpture contests.
Spain’s small green peppers called, pimientos de Padrón are beloved throughout the country, served as tapas, fried and sprinkled with salt. They are so honoured in the town of Herbón, located in the municipality of Padrón where they grow, that they even have their own festival. Held on the first Saturday in August, the festival attracts thousands of pepper fans every year. It was here in fact that Padrón pepper was first cultivated, after being brought from America by a monk over 600 years ago.
Ounce for ounce, saffron is more expensive than gold, yet these precious little orange strands flavour many Spanish dishes, including the famous paella. Saffron comes from a special type of flower called the saffron crocus, which is said to be born at sunrise and dies at dusk. It is not particularly difficult to grow, but is expensive because of the labour needed to extract it. During the last weekend in October, the town of Consuegra in Toledo celebrates these flowers, by holding the Saffron Rose Festival with gastronomic events, pickling of flowers and competitions to see who can extract the most amount of saffron in the least amount of time.
Usually held at the beginning of March, the Artichoke Festival of Benicarló celebrates one of Spain’s tastiest vegetables. The festival takes place in the town of Benicarló, in the Valencia region, and comprises cooking competitions, gastronomic demonstrations and food markets. Even Valencia’s most famous chef – Ricard Camarena gets involved, creating delicious artichoke dishes.
The Water and Ham Festival is held in the village of Lanjarón in the Alpujarran mountain region near the city of Granada. The festival takes places on the Noche de San Juan – the Night of Saint John on the 23rd of June every year, and features a giant water fight at midnight. After the soaking, it’s time for feasting on slices of ham, which are particularly famous in the Alpujarras, particularly in the town of Trevélez.