A patchwork quilt of olives in Cazorla, Spain
For a long time I have known that Spain was producing some top-class olive oil and I have always been perplexed why it does not get the same recognition as Italian oil. In fact, Italian’s like it so much they import tons of it, blend it and repackage it as Italian oil (of course not the case with out Italian oil, which is 100% Umbrian). Well it’s time to give Spanish farmers and millers credit where credit is due.
My trip to Cazorla in the province of Jaen (Andalusia) was a big success. Andalusia is one of the most prolific and best olive growing regions in the Mediterranean. I was a little blown away by how many olive trees there are. My gracious hostess Gerardine put it well: “It is like a patchwork quilt of olive trees.” Although there are a lot of trees, this is not considered intensive planting (that is where you have the olive trees basically planted as hedges and tractors drive through to mechanically harvest the fruit). Olive cultivation in Cazorla is large-scale but still applies a number of traditional growing and harvesting methods.
A healthy looking picual olive tree. Most trees are grown in a three-trunk formation.
Most of the trees in this area are the piqual cultivar, which withstand cold winters and adapts well to most soil conditions. This hearty tree is a good producer and its oil is prized for its full-bodied flavour and because it keeps longer than most oils. Sprinkled amidst this see of picual are a few Royal de Cazorla trees: this is the native cultivar that I mentioned in my last post. In contrast to picual, Royal oil is very smooth and does not keep as long. It is quite common to see oil that is a mix of these two cultivars: the result is the best of both worlds.
A funky old Royal de Cazorla tree.