Spanish Olive Oil
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Spanish Olive Oil
Olive oil is a common ingredient in almost all dishes in Spanish cuisine. The Spanish use olive oil in almost all meals; whether cooked or fresh. Each person in Spain consumes about 2.5 gallons of olive oil each year. Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil. Spain produces approximately 45% of the worlds olive oil total production. Spain grows more than 100 varieties olives, and so has olive oils for a wide range of tastes.
The History of Spanish Olive Oil
Olive oil is believed to have been brought to Spain by the Phoenicians who are thought to have originated from Lebanon and Syria. The Romans embraced olive oil and encouraged its spread throughout the provinces in Spain. The Moors who later ruled Spain bought with them better cultivation and processing techniques. This led Spain to become the largest global producer and processor of olive oil.
Spain’s Climate & Geography
Spain’s natural climate is ideal for the cultivation of olive oils. Spain has initiated many nationwide initiatives to improve the cultivation of the olive oils, for example advanced irrigation systems such as drip irrigation. Spanish farmers tend not use chemicals during the cultivation. In fact, they aim at maintaining the natural taste of the olive oil by using environmentally friendly practices.
Regions in Spain producing olive oil
Andalucía is not only Spain’s largest producer of olive oil but also the world largest producer of olive oil. More than 35% of olive oil in the world comes from the eight provinces in this region with the Jaen province producing the majority of the olive oil. Andalucía has the perfect terrain to grow olives with a climate of mild winters and hot, dry summers which greatly support the cultivation of the olive fruit.
Castilla La Mancha
Located in the central peninsula, Castilla La Mancha has five provinces and produces approximately 15% of the total olive oil production from Spain. A minimal rainfall and high altitude support the growth of olives in the five provinces.
6% of olive oil from Spain comes from this region of south east Spain. Extremadura is near the Atlantic Ocean, and the region experiences hot summers and warm winters. In some summers, the temperature can reach up to 30 degrees.
In the northeast part of Spain is Catalonia which produces 3% of the total olive oil from Spain. The moderate climate is ideal for varieties of olive oil such as Arbequina.
Variety of Spanish Olive Oils
Spain has over 290 olive tree species and produces over 100 varieties of olive oils. Below we look at some of the most common types of Spanish olive oil.
Picual is the most dominant variety of olive oil in Spain, and it makes up almost 75 % of olive oil in Jaen. Picual is predominantly grown in the areas surrounding Jean such as Granada and Cordoba. This type of olive oil is ideal for frying and normally has a slightly bitter taste.
Cornicabra is the second most popular type of olive oil in Spain. Cornicabra is mainly cultivated in Castile La Mancha. This type of olive oil can be blended with others or can be used on its own. Cornicabra olive oil is viscous, with a fruity taste and can be used to give a spicy note to a dish, with our favorite pairing being roasted vegetables.
Arbequina is variety of Spanish olive oil with fresh taste of sweet apple and almonds. It is cultivated in Catalonia and the surrounding regions. Arbequina’s sweet fruity flavor is best used raw and provides a smooth sensation in the mouth. To best use Arbequina, pour over a salad or add to a cold summer soup.
Hojiblanca is another variety of olive oil normally cultivated in Andalucía. Just like Arbequina, Hojiblanca has a smooth and sweet taste and is perfect to use for baking.