By Alex Watkins POMEGRANATES of the Mollar de Elche variety harvested this year are expected to be bigger and better than usual.
President of the Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) for the Mollar del Elche pomegranate, Franscisco Oliva noted that rain at the end of the summer had been very beneficial for the crop as it came at a ‘strategic time’ which has improved their quality and size. This, combined with the higher yields now being obtained from the new plantations added in recent years, indicate that production is expected to be up by two per cent.
“We will have another 1,000 tons in addition to the 50,000 tons that we average each harvest within the geographical limits of the DOP (encompassing the Bajo Vinalopó, Vega Baja and L’ Alacantí areas),” he said.
About half will be sold with the DOP seal, which are the best quality pomegranates from plantations registered with the regulatory board.
The symbolic ‘first cut’ of the season was performed in Albatera by Michelin-starred chef Ricard Camarena.
He was accompanied by other prestigious chefs from the Valencia region: Susi Díaz, Kiko Moya, María José San Román, Manuel Alonso, Bernd H Knöller, Raúl Resino, Santiago Prieto, and Miguel Barrer and pastry maestro Paco Torreblanco.
Between them all they have a total of 10 Michelin stars.
Sr Camarena said the Mollar de Elche pomegranate ‘is an iconic product for its quality and unique nature’.
“It adapts very well to cooking because it brings contrast for its acidity and even that tartness that is sometimes an underused condiment which deserves further exploration,” he said.
His restaurant uses it in a salad that is adapted to the produce of each season, with shrimp and smoked tomato juice which are contrasted by the pomegranate.
Other dignitaries included regional, provincial and local government representatives. Elche mayor Carlos González said ‘this essential local crop generates employment and wealth’.
About 40% is sold on the domestic market and it is also exported to Brazil, Asia, Europe and Arabic countries.
The area registered with the DOP has increased this year by 8.9% to 1,469 hectares for the 2017/2018 season and growers can still apply to the board at its offices in Elche or Albatera.