The Agrícola San Francisco co-op – Cosafra – has 500 members who came together in 1960 with a view to trading their produce through a cooperative.With 2,000 ha located in Granada, southern Spain, the campaign ended 2015 with 1.5 million kg of asparagus, 2 million kg of artichokes and 1 million kg of watermelon.
This was an increase compared to 2014, and this year is expected to turn out the same.
“In asparagus we’ve planted another 2 million, so we’re expecting bigger yields, while in artichokes we hope to reach 3 million kg,” said Cosafra chairman and manager Javier Trujillo Hidalgo.
The co-op’s main market is Germany, followed by Switzerland and Poland, among others, while in a new venture in 2015 it worked with Canada for the first time.
“Artichoke is still not fully ensconced in the European market. It’s selling in Italy and France, but we are trying to raise awareness and consolidate it in new markets,” said Cosafra chairman and manager Javier Trujillo Hidalgo.
The cooperative is GLOBALG.A.P.-certified and this year decided to go for the Grasp quality certificate, which endorses good social practices from the field to the company and to the consumer.
“We are farmers first and foremost, in body and soul; and the produce comes from the field straight to the consumer’s table,” Trujillo Hidalgo said.
The consumption of artichoke promotes the proper functioning of the gallbladder.
The association promoting Spanish artichokes says this benefit derives from cynarin, the substance in this vegetable which gives it its characteristic slightly bitter taste.
This phenolic compound stimulates bile secretion, which in turn helps prevent gallstones forming, it said in a press release.
Dietitian Antonio Gómez Castro said that, like most fruit and vegetables, the artichoke is also a good source fibre, which helps guard against gallstones. It is also a source of sterols, which helps limit cholesterol absorption, he said.
The association also highlights that the health benefits from eating fresh artichokes include their diuretic properties and and content of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
Artichokes are not just a winter vegetable, they can now be eaten year-round in Spain, the country’s artichoke association, Alcachofa de España, wants to remind consumers.
Spain’s May-November summer harvest of artichokes is underway, with an output of 4 million tons anticipated.
In a press release, the association said the province of Granada – particularly the Hortoventas cooperative – is the epicentre of artichoke production and distribution in Spain over summer.
“The start of this season marks the availability of Spanish artichoke 365 days a year and the fact it is no longer a vegetable eaten only in winter.”
The mild-flavoured Imperial variety is grown in hotter parts of the Mediterranean and Granada and is characterized by its rounded shape and violet-tinged leaves, it said.
One of several ceremonies marking the start of the summer artichoke season
Alcachofa de España president Antonio Galindo said it is important to remind Spanish consumers of the year-round availability of this vegetable so they can benefit from its “diuretic properties and ability to reduce cholesterol and prevent fat accumulation in the liver.”
SAT Hortoventas president Juan Antonio Guerrero said the artichoke is highly nutritious and an essential element of the Mediterranean diet. The cooperative, which is based in Llano de Zafarraya, has 120 farmers growing artichoke.
Alcachofa de España, which promotes consumption of Spanish artichoke, has more than 24 partners spread across various production zones in Spain: Tudela, in Navarra; Vega Baja del Segura, in Alicante; Valle del Guadalentín and Campo de Cartagena in the Murcia region; and Zafarraya, in Granada and Almeria.