Most of you have probably had the pleasure and occasion to enjoy a pesto that accompanies your pasta or pizza, not to mention a great chimichurri. Nor can we fail to include Valencian paella, even just a salad dressed in the simple combination of vinegar and olive oil. Without this key ingredient, none of those dishes would be as gratifying, if at all possible. Of course we’re talking about the luxury of olive oil, and its blissful effects on food. But where does it come from?
Imagine, if you will, the following: a world before television, cell phones, or internet, where one of the biggest thrills was to wait for the arrival of particular fruits. Mangoes, plums, peaches, etc. When that day came, there would be a whole celebration, with the cherry on top (or the peach, plum, or mango) to shake the trees and make the fruit fall.
Getting the olive oil
Olives, those delicious fruits, are ready for harvest in the late fall to winter when they are shaken from their nurturing trees, fall to the ground (or, more likely, into nets) and are collected. They are passed along to some good friends who classify them, separate the ones that don’t make the cut, the young ones from the mature ones, and apply other secret knowledge that only they possess.
Afterwards, they are ground, taking care not to damage the pits in the center, to obtain a kind of paste. The next step is crucial, as it determines the quality of the final product. The paste is pressed to separate the oil and water, with the first pressing yielding a high quality oil. During the following pressings, the quality goes down. Any solid residue that remains is then removed through decantation or centrifugation. When the oil is ready it should be bottled in an opaque container to better preserve it.
Humans have known the qualities of olive oil for thousands of years. In Ancient Egypt, for example, it was used as a cosmetic. The oil has other interesting uses to investigate, not to mention the beneficial properties of its consumption for human beings. Spain is the world’s leading producer of olives, with over 2.5 million hectares of groves.
We bow to the great olive tree and give thanks to all those who make it possible to harvest, produce, and press this wondrous fruit.