AGRICULTURE

If it’s a cucumber, it’s probably Spanish

Spain’s fruit and vegetables are among the most sought-after in Europe

A Madrid fruit and veg stall.
A Madrid fruit and veg stall.luis sevillano

If you're in Madrid and going to make a refreshing summer salad, with say tomato, lettuce and onion, followed by baked apple for desert, the chances are the lettuce will be Spanish, the tomato Italian, the onion Dutch, and the apple Polish. If you throw in a potato for good measure, and you can be pretty sure it's going to be German, at least according to the latest data from the EU's statistics office, Eurostat.

Spain is also an EU leader in the production of cauliflower, broccoli and peppers (contributing 42%), along with garlic

The EU dedicates 2.3 million hectares to cultivating fruit, and another 2.1 million hectares set aside for growing vegetables. Of the land used for growing fruit, 27.1% is in Spain; while 20% of vegetables are grown in Italy.

Furthermore, Spain harvests one in three of Europe’s peaches, while Italy provides another third, with Greece contributing 23.2%. Spain also leads in the production of strawberries, growing 29% of Europe’s total. When it comes to cherries, however, the country's famed Jerte Valley in Caceres province produces just 10.7% of the total, or 94,000 tons, while Poland produces more than twice as much as Italy's 110,000 tons.

Unsuprisingly, one of the stars of the European fruit market is the apple. Each year as many as 12.7 million tons of apples are harvested in Europe, equivalent to 25 kilograms per capita. The EU's grape harvest is even bigger, but almost 9 out of 10 bunches are pressed for wine. The next most abundant fruit is the orange, with 6.3 million tons harvested in Europe in 2014, 46% of which were Spanish, with Poland next (also a leader in apple production), then Italy and France.

The king of the vegetable patch

If the apple is queen of the orchard, the tomato is king of the vegetables. As much as 35 kg of tomatoes are picked annually per capita, making it the most bountiful product in Europe’s collective vegetable garden. Italy leads here with 36.3% of European tomato production, with Spain accounting for 27.4% and Portugal 8%.

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Not to be outdone, the Netherlands has recently become a big tomato producer, and is now in 5th place in Europe. But when it comes to cucumbers, Spain is the champion grower, with 29.1% of the 2.3 million tons produced in the EU overall. Spain is also the biggest producer of zucchini, with 37.6% of the total EU haul.

The United Kingdom is a prime carrot producer, accounting for 14.2% of total EU output, while, as said, most lettuces eaten from Warsaw to Lisbon are Spanish, some 38%. Spain is also a leader in the production of cauliflower, broccoli and peppers (contributing 42%), along with garlic, but the Netherlands pips it to the post with its onion output. King of the kartoffel, Germany dominates tops potato production with 10.3 million tons of the total 52.8 tons produced in Europe. The Netherlands and Poland are next with 6.6 and 6.1 million tons respectively.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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