SOMEWHERE IN LA MANCHA, in a place whose name I do care to remember, a type of garlic is grown that delights all those who try it. This is the Ajo Morado de Las Pedroñeras (Purple Garlic of Las Pedroñeras), under Protected Geographical Indication (G.P.I.).
Medium sized and uniformly shaped, the 8 to 10 cloves in each head are an intense purple color that makes them stand out from the rest. But, like almost everything in life, the important thing about this garlic makes you wait and is found on the inside, under its skin: its intense aroma, its flavor and its high allicin content, or rather, its sharp bite.
Neither white garlic, with its medium-intense bite, nor Chinese garlic, with barely any bite at all, compares to the aroma and flavor of the Ajo Morado de Las Pedroñeras, which has up to seven times more allicin than Chinese garlic. But that said, Chinese garlic is our star’s main competition since 95% of the worldwide garlic production is in the Asian giant, which doesn’t surprise us, does it?
But not even the Chinese, with a lower priced product, have been able to meet the demand of this gastronomical delight, and between 5,000 and 6,000 hectares of La Mancha land are dedicated to the cultivation of this herbaceous vegetable with a bulb.
The Ajo Morado’s production is centered in the village Las Pedroñeras in the province of Cuenca, although it provides work to thousands of people in the 227 towns near Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo, including farmers, handlers and packagers.
WHEN GOD SHUTS A DOOR HE OPENS A WINDOW
One of those producers, as rooted in garlic as garlic is to the land itself, is the Suárez family. José Suárez supported his family by cultivating garlic and onions, but some unfortunate hailstorms that ruined a few crops, combined with plummeting prices and interest rates at 19% ruined him in the 1980s.
But since “God shuts a door and opens a window”, destiny intervened, and a Las Pedroñeras businessman who owed José money, paid off his debts with a ruinous business of sauces before returning to his native Puerto Rico.
Dolo, José’s daughter, was young then, but still remembers that time: “My father had two options, become a truck driver or go into the sauce business, and he chose the sauce business.” And that’s how the Suárez family reformulated the already existing products (chimichurri sauce and basic marinade) and began to market and sell new products, all garlic related, under the Salsas JR brand.
Peeled, diced, sliced… Ajo Morado de Las Pedroñeras and its derivatives, like garlic paste, chimichurri, barbecue or red mojo sauce are some of the star products of the company, that is currently placing its bets on black garlic. Products that can boast one thing: they are made with the best garlic in the world… not suitable for vampires.
If you would like to know more about Salsas JR here, take a look at this video:
JR Suárez Monedero
C/ La Región, Nº 7
16660 Las Pedroñeras
Tel.: +34 967 160 564
Fax. +34 967 161 161
Photo: Jaime Victoria