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Portuguese Olive Oil

History of Portuguese Olive Oil

There are olive trees in Portugal that are over 500 years old. That pales in comparison to the fact that the Mediterranean region, has been producing olive oil as far back as 3000 BC. Surprisingly there was even a law back in 506 AD prohibiting anyone from uprooting someone else’s olive tree.

Portugal was a founding member of the IOC (International Olive Council) back in 1956, an initiative that includes about ten countries. Today, Portugal is the one of the leading olive oil exporters and producers in the world. This is quite a big change because a few years earlier, the country needed to import olive oil to satisfy local demand.  The radical increase in the amount of olive oil the country produces was the result of dedicating more land to olive oil production and using innovative cultivation methods. Projections indicate that the olive oil industry will continue to grow for many years to come.

Portuguese olive oil has exceptional flavors, which have made it popular around the world. Olive oil flavors from Portugal are earthy and yet delicate, and can be used in a wide range of foods and cooking methods..

Varieties of Portuguese Olive Oil

Portuguese olive oil varieties are as diverse, the country produces Picual olive oil, which sports a buttery finish, is good for prevention of cardiovascular diseases. However, Galega is the most popular type of olive oil in Portugal. This oil has a sweet flavor and a walnut finish. Galega can be used to marinate lamb, but it is also good for dripping over salads.

Portugal is also a source of Arbequina olive oil, which is great for topping off salads and can also be used as a dip for breads. It has a smooth finish and a fruity flavor.

Another popular olive oil variety is Manzanilla, which is made from olives harvested while still green. This olive oil has a pepper finish and is great for cooking due to its taste-enhancing capabilities.

The Cabrancosa variety is also very common throughout the country. It has a deep tropical flavor and is good to eat raw although it can also be added to cooked foods and desserts.

Other olive oil varieties in the country include Carrasquenha, Cordovil de Serpa, Verdeal, Cordovil de Castelo Branco, and Madural.   Table olive oil varieties like Macanilha Algarvia, Negrinha de Freixo and Conserva de Elvas are also found in Portugal.

Regions of Portugal that Produce Olive Oil

Over 350,000 ha. are dedicated to olive oil cultivation in Portugal. And 23% of this area relies on irrigation, while the rest is dependent on rain.

The Alentejo region accounts for most of the olive cultivation in the country, around 50%. The Tros-os-Montes region is a distant second, accounting for about 22% of the land dedicated to olive oil cultivation.

The Centro region is responsible for about 18%, while the Ribatejo region accounts for 7.7% of the growing area. Additionally, Algarve is responsible for final 2.3% of the growing area.

Around 98% of the olives grown in Portugal are used to make olive oil, while the rest are used as table olives