Olive oil is a component based on the Mediterranean diet and is considered by many as the healthiest in the world. Science has investigated all its positive aspects and has been named as Spain’s ‘golden liquid’. Not only does it make ordinary bread something special, but it truly makes your taste buds pop in flavour.
Here’s is some information about the cultivation, varieties and wonders of olive oil.
Olive trees are undemanding. Andalusian soils like Jaén and Córdoba often receive no rain for months but yet olive trees still grow juicy fruit.
Olive tree presumably arrived to the Mediterranean region from Asia more than 3000 years ago. However, they were first cultivated in Greece and Crete, making a variety of ‘Olea europaea’, a known well olive oil still today.
It has been revealed that even during Roman times Andalusia exported olive oil to other Mediterranean countries. Romans grew olive trees throughout their provinces and made olive oil an important commodity. Furthermore, when Andalusia was under Islamic rule, olive oil cultivation continued to flourish and turned into a large branch of agriculture that is still vital economy in the Iberian Peninsula today.
The production for cold-pressed olive oil comes down to the correct and proper harvesting and gentle olive-to-oil process. Horse manure is used as a fertilizer and no machines are used for harvesting. The traditional method consists of knocking olive trees with sticks, waiting for olives to fall off – this is called ‘vareo’.
The olives are caught on a netting spread out under the trees and then picked again by hand to assure that only the best of olives are picked for the final production process.
Sometimes they are picked by hand from the beginning, when harvesting for very fine olive oil production.
The highest quality of olive oil is ‘flor de aceite’ (flower of the oil) which is essentially a fine juice that is neither centrifuged nor pressed. It’s the remaining juice that is collected from the olive paste is in the process of grinding. This juice contains all the goods, the strong piquant flavor, the vitamins and minerals and unsaturated fatty acids.
Olive oil production and process
1) Freshly harvested olives are ground to a brownish paste using a heavy granite rollers.
2) Paste is put through a centrifuge, that extracts the oil from the olives.
3) This oil drains/runs through and out at the edge of the centrifuge.
4) Before being bottled, the fresh olive oil is stored in collecting tanks for a short while.
You may not be surprised to know that Spain is the number one largest producer of olive oil in Europe. Olive trees cover an area of 2 million hectares, growing 215 million trees. Provinces of Jaén and Córdoba have olive tree plantations that stretch to the horizon, many of which are supported by the European Union by grants to maintain the upkeep and production of olive oil in the region.
Jaén is most famous for it’s ‘picual’ olive oil and Córdoba for its ‘picudo’ and ‘hojiblanca’. Other provinces of Andalucia grow these varieties too, between others.
Olive oil varieties, the most common and popular ones
Hojiblanca is an olive oil is produced in Córdoba, Sevilla and Málaga – 16 % of Andalusian production.
Hojiblanca is ideal for anybody’s diet because of its low amount of saturated fatty acids. It’s piquant character quickly disappears and leaves behind an aroma of blossom herbs. It’s an elegant oil with sweet and bitter flavors.
It’s recommended for frying, this oil is also ideal for making bread, pasta and pastries. It’s suitable also in gazpacho and marinades for fish and/or meat dishes. These olives are also widely used and appreciated as black table olives, thanks to the firmness of their flesh.
Cultivated in Granada (Andalucia), occupying approximately 185,000 hectares in the province and a small part of the province of Seville. The name refers to the milky white color of the flesh of the olive, ‘leche’ is milk in Spanish. The flavor is slightly bitter, leaving an aftertaste of green almonds.
A markedly fruity and fragrant olive oil, considered the the most important variety.
It accounts for 50% of the production in Spain, and therefore about 20% of world production.
It is particularly suitable for giving a touch of sophistication to fruit and sweet dishes as well as herbs such as thyme. It has more body than maybe other olive oils due to it’s low-lying lands, giving it a slightly bitter taste and a hint of wood. It is often blended with Picudo or Hojiblanca and is best used in frying, although it is equally good for salads and gazpachos.
Its cultivation is not very widespread, with its production concentrated in Jaén (Andalucia) and neighboring provinces and has excellence and perfect fatty acid content and the antioxidants.
This variety is mainly cultivated and known to come from Córdoba (Andalucía) but is also cultivated in neighboring provinces of Jaén, Málaga and Granada.
The Picudo is the second-largest olive used in oil extraction and are considered very delicate with a tendency to oxidation.
The flavor of the oils is soft, with an exotic fruit aftertaste, perfect as table olives, green and black. The oils they produce are ideal in warm salads, gazpachos, and pastries.
This type of oil comes from small co-operatives in Vélez-Málaga region and produces a greeny-golden fruity and mild olive oil. Verdial is also a name given to a number of local varieties with similar characteristics that are produced in areas of Andalucía – in the provinces of Málaga, Granada, Córdoba, Seville or Huelva and the south of Extremadura (province of Badajoz). It’s an ideal variety, not only in the production oil, but also as table olives.
Verdial is sweet, very fruity and not bitter in flavor, suitable for gazpachos, marinades and steamed vegetables.
Produces a golden oil with greenish reflections. Velvety, sweetish and slightly bitter in taste. This variety occupies the second-largest growing area in Spain.
The production area is distributed throughout the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real in province of Castilla La Mancha.
The oils of this variety intensifies vegetable dishes, warm salads, sauces and is also very suitable for mayonnaise and game.
A smooth olive oil that ranges from a pale yellow to an old gold in color. Fruity but sometimes slightly sweet in flavor or even slightly bitter flavors – depending on production process. Ideal for mixing with stronger oils.
This variety originates from the region of Zaragoza and is cultivated throughout the valley of the Ebro river that goes from Logroño to Tarragona, past La Rioja and even up to the Balearic islands.
Suitable for salad dressings, marinades, mayonnaise, steamed or boiled dishes. A few drops on some sheep’s or goat’s cheese will give quite a nice touch.
Pale yellow to greenish color oil with a slight bitter quality. A smell that could be described of artichokes and freshness. This type of olive is cultivated over 45,000 hectares in Lerida, Huesca, Tarragona, and Zaragoza.
Suitable for mayonnaise and alioli (Spanish garlic mayonnaise), vegetables, fresh or cooked, and grilled fish.
It is difficult to harvest mechanically, but it is very highly regarded because the tree produces a large amount of fruit.
Benefits of olive oil
Olive oil makes your arteries more elastic meaning you’re less likely to suffer strokes or heart attacks, makes you less hungry, cures acne, treats sunburn (a big plus for vacationing down the Costa del Sol), improves your memory, keeps your lips soft and supple (keep that in mind ladies), prevents dry scalps, unsticks a zipper, waterproofs your leather items, cleans and moisturizes one’s skin, prevents sagging skin, turns fast food into healthy food and even works as a fantastic lubricant… and the list goes on.
Virgin olive oil works as a magnificent antioxidant, anti inflammatory and reduces bad cholesterol levels. It increases your life longevity and helps against cancer. If you suffer from any cardiovascular defect, the healthy good unsaturated fat in virgin olive oil is the cure for you.
You’re getting the idea, Olive oil is magical.
What is Virgin olive oil?
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil classification. It should have no defects and a flavor of fresh olives.
You may also come across extra virgin olive oil that is simply pressed fruit juice without additives.
Factors influencing any olive oil’s quality and taste include the varieties of olives used, the terroir and the countless decisions, production practices and the dedication of the producer.
Overall, Spain is famous for its grand and great in taste and quality of virgin olive oils.
Hojiblanca olive oil museum
Hojiblanca Museum in Antequera (Málaga province) is a space dedicated to promote the culture of olive oil, olive and olive trees. It is located in the heart of Andalusia and allows you to see the different types of olive trees and to contemplate ancient olive oil mills that date back to the 1st, 17th and 19th century. It is also optional to undertake olive oil tastings.
The museum is inside the premises of Hojiblanca Cooperative, a group of more than 55.000 families of olive growers. Its olives and extra virgin oils can be purchased in the premises.
Antequera is known to be “the heart of Andalusia” because of its central location among Málaga, Granada, Córdoba, and Seville.
To visit Reina Sofia Olive Oil Bottling Plant and Hojiblanca Museum in Antequera:
Carretera de Córdoba, s/n (Carretera A-7281, km 3.8)
29200 Antequera, Málaga (Spain)
Tel +34 952841451 – Fax +34 952842555
October to May: 8:30 to 14:30 (Monday to Friday) and 16:00 to 18:30 (Monday to Thursday)
June to September: 7:30 to 15:00 (Monday to Thursday)
We are not responsible for any time, date or contact detail modification.