Olive oil in Spain El aceite de oliva en España

 

olive oil in spain

The first olive trees in the Iberian Peninsula were cultivated in Cádiz and Seville; Cádiz was an important city visited by the Phoenicians, who held important relationships through its port, the same as Sevilla, which was always accessible due to the river Guadalquivir.

 

The olive tree has been cultivated in Spain since ancient times

Image of a Spanish olive grove in La Fresnada (Lower Aragon)

 

When the troops of Julius Caesar fought with those of Pompey in Hispania, they camped among trees in the Aljarafe region surrounding Sevilla, the traditional location of these trees, famous for its excellent olive oil. The word Córdoba means olive mill which indicates its olive groves and the quality of olive oil, as it was famous since Roman times for the oil produced in the region, even to the point that the Spanish-Roman poet Marcial called the Andalusian regions 'Betis olifera'.   

The Ampurias region, originally a Greek colony surrounded by Iberian cities (the remains of which can be seen today), was an important introduction of the olive tree, which saw its splendor during the Roman era, in the fertile lands of Tarragona, where excellent olive oil is still produced to this day.

The Arab people who travelled the peninsula found the magnificent olive groves. In the time of Al-Andalus, they were expanded and cultivation techniques such as olive oil production improved . During the XV and XVII century geographical distribution and expansion of existing olive groves were consolidated and the bulk of the plantations are located in the heart of Andalusia, comprising of the provinces of Jaen, Cordoba and Seville.

The history of the olive groves in the Aragon is very similar to that described for the whole Mediterranean area, given its proximity and peculiar climate similar to that of Levant. Possibly their introduction was due to the Phoenicians or the Greeks. What is known is that the olive tree did not achieve much importance until the arrival of Scipio as Avienus' book Ora Maritima states, which referred to the Ebro as "oleum Flume " i.e. river of oil.

 

The olive tree is the characteristic tree of Aragón

Image of olive growing in Lower Aragon, Teruel.

 

The richness of olive oil in the area of Alcañiz (Aragón) is shown in the magnificent life of its old trees. They are some of the oldest in the whole of Spain, introduced in the area at the time of the Roman domination. The rulers of Aragón provided an incentive by demanding that each town hall would award its people for each successfully planted tree, with a Real de Vellón, (an ancient coin), which was a huge success for the plantation of these trees. Thus they gradually covered hills and plains in lush olive groves, the areas in which the soil and atmospheric agents themselves met the requirements of trees and advantage of the grower. At that time, Arab mills were using animal traction for olive oil extraction and beam presses arm moved by hand to dispatch the harvest, until 1866, the French developed new manufacturing techniques and olive oils were no longer so cloudy or acidic.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, several commercial firms from Marseille, Nice, Genoa, etc.., settled with stores on the square in Alcaniz to buy our olive oil directly, without dispute, and all the business firms from Catalonia and Levante contested with them.

 Olive oil is one of the most characteristic products of Lower Aragón. The cultivation of the olive groves also came to cover seasonal unemployment through the agricultural manual labour needed during the winter months where there had been little employment on the farm before the recent boom in intensive orchards. Weather conditions on the one hand and the characteristics of the variety empeltre, almost exclusively grown in the area of Bajo Aragon, produce olive oil of high quality.

 

Olive oil from Lower Aragón

Olive oil from Lower Aragón. Olive oil of good quality.

 

Olive cultivation in the province of Teruel is restricted for environmental reasons (limitation determined by the weather) to the extensive natural area of Aragón. The figure of the olive tree across the fields and hills of the lower countryside has been traditional for centuries, having played an important role through the years, in developing its economy and decisively influencing the life and customs its people.

The best olives in Spain grow on fresh and deep limestone. The land in this area of Aragón is included in the group of the dry limestone soils according to the soil map of Huguet del Villar.

 

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