Consumers are currently able to purchase one of the most famous peaches in the Spanish region of Aragon: the one under the PDO Melocotón de Calanda, which is known for ripening inside a paper bag. This protects it from pests, making it possible for it to receive practically no phytosanitary treatments.
The paper bags were introduced about 50 years ago. Each peach is carefully bagged in the last months of the fruit's growth, one by one, after a thorough thinning process. This ensures that the peaches that reach full maturity do so with the maximum guarantees in terms of size, appearance and sweetness. In this process, 70% of the fruits are removed in order to leave a distance of about twenty centimeters between every piece. In this way, the peach becomes more voluminous and fleshy. "If what you have in your hands is a real black label, its diameter will be at least 73 millimeters," says the PDO.
The Melocotón de Calanda Designation of Origin has 4,654 km² spread over 45 Aragonese municipalities, between Teruel and Zaragoza. Last year, this acreage yielded a production of 3,780 million kilos, with 250 million of them being bagged peaches. These figures are a testament to both the quality of the product and its success.
A sustainable peach
Ernest Mas, orchard manager at Disfruta & Verdura, says that "Calanda peaches are exceptionally good and sweet, and our customers know it." This designation of origin guarantees a minimum sweetness of 12 degrees Brix, which is the minimum for the fruit to have its recognizable aroma.
Ernest Mas says that, apart from the characteristic bagging, they also take other measures to tackle natural threats, such as field moths. "We put rings on the branches of our trees that give off odors that cause sexual confusion in insects like the Anarsia and Grapholita, which approach the peach trees with the intention of reproducing. These measures contribute to further abandoning the use of phytosanitary products," says the representative of Disfruta & Verdura.
And there are still more methods to obtain healthier and more sustainable fruit. In some of its fields, the company uses plant covers made from different species of herbs, such as grasses and legumes, which promote biodiversity and improve soil fertility, reduce the need for tillage, improve water infiltration and provide nutrients to the trees.