Manchego cheese  www.themanchegocheese.comWhat do a pair of espadrilles and a Manchego cheese have in common?

The answer is esparto.

Esparto is a type of grass that is found in Northwest Africa and the Southern part of the Iberian Peninsula. Commonly used as a raw material for crafts such as cords, basketry or espadrilles…  it was also traditionally used – I’m sure you’ve already guessed it by now – for cheese-making.

The esparto grass was woven into a mat, which was then used as a cheese mold. Not only did the grass wick moisture from the cheese, but it imprinted a distinctive zig-zag pattern – known as pleita – on the rind.

Today the same effect is achieved by molds made with modern materials and covered with cotton fabrics. The inside of these molds is designed in relief to impart an embossed pattern similar to that of woven esparto grass while the fabric is there to take the moisture from the cheese.

New ways. Old traditions. Same result. Zig-zag.