Canned Fruits and Vegetables

By Real Academia de Gastronomía

Real Academia de Gastronomía

Spain was one of the first countries to take advantage of preservation techniques in the fruit and vegetable industry. Today, the Ebro Valley is the leading producer of canned fruits and vegetables thanks to the quality of its raw materials and a respect for the produce.

"Trevijano" Canned Food FactoryReal Academia de Gastronomía

La Rioja: Where It All Began

The origins of the first vegetable canning factory, established in La Rioja, are tied to the Trevijano family name.

It was the year 1860, and the Marquis of Havana, the Marquis of Murrieta, and General Espartero were amongst the factory's silent partners.

The Trevijanos, who were already going it alone, had been at the forefront of the sector for decades.

"Trevijano" Canned FoodReal Academia de Gastronomía

With bell peppers as the star product among the first canned goods, the industry began to cluster around the towns of Logroño and Calahorra. By the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 50 companies in the area working in the sector.

Canned tomatoes and peaches in syrup, which were soon exported to Cuba, became the stand-out products. Plum and apricot jams were popular too.

Piquillo Peppers FabricReal Academia de Gastronomía

Some factories were quickly modernized. These included the company Pérez y Crech, which introduced all the latest technological advances to enable 600,000 containers to be produced in a single year.

Peach PlantationReal Academia de Gastronomía

Murcia: An Emerging Power

At the end of the 19th century, canning in Murcia was a very local, traditional affair. However, it would not be long before the region was hot on the heels of La Rioja.

As a region known for its fruit production, 2 events in the early 20th century helped to position Murcia as an important area for fruit and vegetable canning: the relocation of industrialists from Mallorca, and the First World War.

Canned Apricot PulpReal Academia de Gastronomía

Canning technologies were already being used successfully in the Balearic Islands, but the demand that came from Europe could not be met. As a result, a large number of businessmen decided to move to Murcia.

In addition, the demand for canned fruit pulp grew during the First World War, and Spain's neutrality led to a boom in production in the region of Murcia. There were 10 factories in 1915, and by 1918, the number had risen to 24.

Vegetable Canned FactoryReal Academia de Gastronomía

Keep Up or Close Down

Producers started to specialize in the early 1930s, and many of the small factories scattered throughout Spain disappeared, unable to adapt to changes and needs.

Still Life with Canned VegetablesReal Academia de Gastronomía

Manufacturers perfected their packaging, design, and presentation as they looked for the best way to preserve products and make them easier to handle, open, close, and stack.

Harvesting Piquillo PeppersReal Academia de Gastronomía

The Canning Map

Nowadays, the industry is concentrated in the 2 most thriving areas: La Rioja and Murcia. La Rioja specializes in vegetables, while Murcia primarily produces fruit. Other regions, such as Navarre, Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Andalusia also have active canning industries.

The Mediterranean region and the Ebro Valley became known as major players in the fruit and vegetable canning industry, and have remained so ever since.

Tomato grilledReal Academia de Gastronomía

Star Produce: Apricots and Tomatoes

How did they become the great Spanish success stories in the international world of canned fruits and vegetables?

Apricot Cut in HalfReal Academia de Gastronomía

Apricot Pulp: The First Great International Success

Exports of canned fruit pulp doubled each year, and apricot pulp became the number one canned fruit in Spain.

It traveled beyond national borders and was turned into jam on arrival, particularly in England.

Canned Piquillo PeppersReal Academia de Gastronomía

The King of Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Tomatoes make up approximately one third of all canned fruits and vegetables. Whether whole or chopped, fried, sautéed, or in a sauce, they are the undisputed heavyweight of the canning sector.

The high demand for tomatoes, either for private consumption, catering, or the ready-meal industry, means that production increases year after year.

Still Life with Canned VegetablesReal Academia de Gastronomía

From Artichokes to Asparagus

Many other vegetables are also canned: peppers (bell, piquillo, sweet, spicy, whole or in strips), borage, green beans, artichokes, thistles, peas, and broad beans. Almost any resource on earth can be put through preservation processes and reach consumers with the highest quality.

Some products also have quality stamps, including Tudela artichokes, Almagro eggplants, Lodosa piquillo peppers, and Navarre asparagus.

Canned BeansReal Academia de Gastronomía

That is not to mention legumes, which are also used in the industry and even go on sale in the form of delicious ready meals.

Artichokes with Broth and Jerusalem ArtichokesReal Academia de Gastronomía

Fruits and Vegetables: Simply Open and Serve

Whether just opened and eaten, or used to prepare gourmet dishes, canned fruits and vegetables offer lots of different options.

Still Life with Canned VegetablesReal Academia de Gastronomía

Open and Eat... or Cook

One of the great advantages of canned fruits and vegetables is that you can enjoy them as soon as you open the can.

In the case of asparagus, it is important to serve it right before you are going to eat it, because it dries out very quickly.

One way to serve peppers is straight from the jar with meat, but they can also be used in cooking in lots of different ways, such as stuffed or in a confit.

Canned AspargusReal Academia de Gastronomía

What Happens to the Liquid?

The liquid in which the products are preserved is called "covering liquid" and it is a big mistake to drain it as soon as you open the jar or can.

Canned Piquillo PeppersReal Academia de Gastronomía


Firstly, in case you don't eat the entire contents of the can.

Secondly, because the juice that comes with the produce—oil, brine, or syrup—can be really useful for preparing dishes.

That is, of course, as long as it is a first-rate product from a reliable manufacturer. If the liquid tastes of preservatives, it means it is not high quality.

Still Life with Canned VegetablesReal Academia de Gastronomía

A Range of Containers

Preserved fruits and vegetables are presented in various forms and packaging—Tetra Paks, cans, or glass jars—to meet to the needs of the consumer.

Leeks with Orange and FishReal Academia de Gastronomía

Gourmet and Haute Cuisine in a Can

The most recent innovation in the fruit and vegetable canning industry is aimed at offering the highest quality canned produce.

With designer packaging and outstanding produce fit for the most discerning palates, these products have found their way into the best kitchens, and the catering sector too.

Credits: Story

Text: Silvia Artaza, in collaboration with Ismael Diaz Yubero, Spain’s representative at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food Advisor for the Spanish Embassy in Rome. Member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.

Image: Foods & Wines from Spain / Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade / Trevijano / David de Luis (products supplied by La Catedral de Navarra).

Acknowledgements: Rafael Ansón, president of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; Elena Rodríguez, director of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy; María García and Caroline Verhille, contributors to the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy

This exhibition is part of the Spanish Gastronomy project jointly coordinated by Google Arts & Culture and the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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