Considered to be a gourmet wonder for gourmet palates, the qualities of the Calanda Peach come from the land where it is born and from a very demanding cultivation. It is a real jewel of Aragonese agriculture, appreciated for its unmistakable sweetness, size and texture.
The most fleeting pleasure which accompanies autumn is, without a doubt, the Calanda Peach. Regulated under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), it has the reputation of being the best in the country. Nature, for us to savour each fruit as it should be, has established an extremely short season, which runs from the end of August to the beginning of November. Practically two months to enjoy every bite.
It is born in the Southern Aragon region, in an area which, due to its climatic and geographical conditions, is ideal for a pure peach with an exquisite flavour. As the PDO Certification Director, Ana Omede, points out, “the properties of this product are tied to the soil in which it grows. Outside this production area it would not have the organoleptic qualities it possesses”. However, all that glitters is not gold. The PDO warns that the authentic Calanda Peach “has a black sticker with the seal which identifies it. When presented in boxes, it has a numbered label and one of the fruits can be seen wrapped in a black bag”. It is impossible to make a mistake.
What distinguishes this fruit as a gourmet product of exclusive quality? The variety is recognisable by its large size, which makes it eye-catching, and its unique colour, which ranges from cream to straw yellow. In the mouth it has a juicy texture, a very sweet taste and a very evocative aroma, which makes it highly recognisable. The production process is extremely demanding. First of all, it undergoes a double clarification, a sieving process which eliminates a high percentage (70% of the product). Thanks to this obsessive sacrifice, “the trees have more strength and the peaches can grow more”. The second stage adds an unmistakable air to the crop, as each peach is bagged, one by one, to protect it from external agents and from the effects of phytosanitary products. The process is usually carried out in July and by hand, with all the care in the world, to harvest a fruit which has no rival.
And that is not all. There is still another selection to be made, as only those which comply with a calibre of 76 mm, a hardness of 3kg of pressure and a sweetness of at least 12 degrees Brix of sugar are marketed. Ana Omede recognises that “it is a commitment to quality, not quantity. In the end we are left with 15 or 20% of the product”. Precisely because of this exceptional nature, distribution is limited to Spain and a few European countries. Transporting it beyond these borders would detract from its excellence, spoiling such rigorous work.
Spanish gastronomy shows it a well-deserved admiration, both to its natural form and as a dessert and in dishes which make the most of its properties. And the result pays off, as every year more and more people impatiently await the time to harvest it.
Parador of Alcañiz, treasure of Aragon
Visiting Alcañiz and all its tradition without staying at the Parador is a painfully incomplete experience. How can you not steep yourself in the past of this unique building? The 12th-13th century castle-convent still preserves the keep, the bell tower, the sacristy and the part converted into an Aragonese palace. The ensemble is completed by the serene beauty of its Gothic murals, the Plateresque sepulchre, the Baroque façade and the strolls through its delicate garden.
The Parador can be the kilometre zero for trips into the surrounding countryside. Less than an hour away is the Vía Verde del Val de Zafán. A solitary path crossing the Matarraña, a river with spectacular gorges and dreamlike waterfalls, which invites you to get lost along the old railway tracks, nowadays prepared for cycle touring or horse riding. History lovers also have an incentive, as the province of Teruel has more than 70 sites of Levantine cave art.
When it comes to regaining strength, it is highly recommended to try the exquisite local ham, the black truffle, the olive oil from the Southern Aragon region, the saffron from Jiloca, the traditional sweets… And as outstanding suggestions, the beans from El Pilar, the borage, the veal from Aragon, the bacalao a la baturra (Cod stew with potatoes and hard-boiled eggs), the ham from Teruel and, of course, the peach from Calanda.