IberiaNature A guide to the natural history and food of Spain

Other vegetables in Spain

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.

Pastanagas / zanahorias / carrots are also called carottes in Figueres and other places near the French border. The Spanish name is clearly of Arabic origin. Raw, they can appear as crudités with some kind of dip, pickled with baby onions and gherkins as curtidos , usually to accompany olives, or shredded in salads. Cooked chunks of carrot often turn up in soups and stews. Bottled or jarred baby carrots are sweet and very popular in all the above ways.

Naps / nabos / turnips are used a lot in the Pyrenees . There is an annual turnip recipe competition In the beautiful Cerdenya valley; a folk custom now celebrated, but hidden on the occasion of King Alfonso XIII's visit in the 1920s, when the local worthies presented His Majesty with a dish of salted cod. These naps / nabos are white like English turnips, not purple on the outside and orange on the inside like the turnips we eat in Ireland and Scotland ("neeps", delicious with haggis), which English people call swedes and use only for feeding animals. I have never come across these in this country. Naps / nabos can be quite bulbous, but are usually long and not very big. The word nabo is also a slang term for penis.

chirivias / parsnips , my father's favourite vegetables, are often inserted into stockpots but are only occasionally apparent in soups and stews. When one is expecting to bite into a chunk of potato, the texture of parsnip can be quite disconcerting, but the flavour, vaguely reminiscent of banana, is not unpleasing.

apio / celery also turns up occasionally in stews. I have never had any objection to the use of celery in stock, and even admit to having once enjoyed celery soup. Bit I used to think the only real role for celery was raw, in a Bloody Mary or other tomato juice drink, or perhaps in a salad or as part of a dish of crudités with a dip. In this country I am finding new uses for it

Brocol / brécol / broccoli I used to agree with former U.S. President George Bush Snr. on the subject of broccoli; he detested it. The botanical family to which broccoli belongs is the Brassicaceae , also known as the Mustard family, comprising approximately 3,000 species. The scientific name for broccoli, Brassica oleracea (L.), is also shared by cabbage, cauliflower, collards, brussels sprouts, kale, and kohlrabi , to name but a few. Despite the fact that all of the aforementioned varieties are similar to one another and to broccoli, they are nevertheless separate entities.

  • Acelgas
  • Col y Repollo - the same thing?
  • Coliflor
  • Col de Bruselas

Cardes / cardos / thistles are not widely consumed in Catalunya, but are very popular in Navarra, where several of my friends come from. The stems have to be peeled and boiled for a very long time in salty water, but the result is very pleasant either on its own or in combination with peppered celery and / or broccoli. They have a high reputation as a heal-all, being supposed even to cure the plague. Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing contains the line: 'Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus and lay it to your heart; it is the only thing for a qualm.... I mean plain Holy Thistle.' This presumably refers to external application, but many older Spaniards regard thistle soup as medicinal in the same way as soup made from / ortigas / nettles and / dock leaves. Galicians also recommend Rubarbio / rhubarb for medicinal purposes but I've never heard anyone here enthuse about their granny's rhubarb recipes, and Catalans seem to regard all these plants as only fit for donkeys.

Carxofes / alcachofas / artichokes

Artichokes were eaten in ancient Egypt and classical Greece and Rome . The modern European names of this delicacy are derived from the Arabic " alcarxuf ", meaning "edible thistle", and the artichoke is in fact a form of thistle flower. Fresh artichokes are only available from late autumn to early spring. The hard outer leaves are inedible, but the bases of the inner leaves are delicious, especially if dipped in hot melted butter. Artichoke hearts have a flavour and texture similar to bamboo shoots. In Catalunya, the traditional way to cook them is by baking them of barbecuing them over or in hot wood embers. They also appear frequently in stews, or fried in breadcrumbs. They can also be boiled, served in a sauce or curried, or fried in tempura. Raw, they can be eaten with a lemon vinaigrette.

Esparecs / esparagos / asparagus, uncountable in English and countable in Spanish and Catalan, comes in two basic varieties, green or white. Both types feature frequently in salads or on their own with mayonnaise, al i oli or some other sauce.

White asparagus is one of the only canned vegetables good restaurants in Spain will ever use, and most state " de lata " quite clearly on their menus. This is because (a) wild white asparagus can only be obtained fresh in season, and the season is a very short one; and (b) wild or farmed, white asparagus becomes wooden within three or four days of being picked. Apart from astronomically expensive fresh wild white asparagus less than one-day-old, the canned, big white asparagus from La Rioja or Navarra is very hard to beat. My favourite is the ultra-large Navarra white asparagus (of the size that's legally and quite precisely known as ' cojonudos '). It is also sold in glass jars, which I personally don't like that much because sunlight doesn't help the delicate texture, and for some reason the bottlers are not using dark glass as virgin olive oil producers now do.

  • Green asparagus / esparagos trigueros.
  • Barcelona Metropolitan March 2007 directly contradicts this information .
  • Beetroot is usually pickled, and often served with sweetcorn in salads. Radishes

Beans . Spaniards love beans: French beans, Toledo beans, Lima beans, pinto beans, haricot beans, string beans, giant beans, garrofón beans , black-eyed beans, red beans, green beans, white beans, yellow beans, purple beans, black beans, refried beans, frijoles, lentejas [lentils], garbanzos [chickpeas] and any other type of pulse or legume imaginable. The only bean dish I have not seen eaten here is Heinz -style beanz in tomato sauce, (although I am again indebted to the local Philipino community shop for catering to my tastes in this regard).

  • Peas
  • Spinach / Espinacas / Espinacs
  • ¿trompetas?

Aguacates / Avocado Pears

These American imports do not feature prominently in Catalan or Spanish cuisine, but nor are they unusual. They are most often served with a tuna mayonnaise filling. Mexican guacamole is also popular.


See also

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.

Expert guided food tours in Barcelona by Nick Lloyd of Iberianature.



Francis Barrett's Deconstruction of Catalan and Spanish Food

See aslo a brief guide to Catalan food by Simon Rice


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