Where does Olive Oil come from?
Where does olive oil come from? What a great quest I know the answer to that little riddle because I have been helping my friend and neighbour Javier harvest the olives that go into producing olive oil.
If you saw the work that goes into producing the olives, you would think twice about moaning about the price of the extra virgin olive oil.
I wont go through the whole process of growing trees from cuttings, planting them out and growing them. That would take too long and it would be very boring.
Instead, I will tell you about my week harvesting the olives and what a great time I have had.
Olive Oil comes from Olive Trees
No way! olive oil comes from olive trees? well; we live and learn! Sarcasm aside; I was talking with my neighbour Javier and he wondered if I had time to help out with the olive harvest as this year is particularly good.
The variety of olive grown in and around La Nava is called Hojiblanca.
Hojiblanca is an olive cultivar from Lucena. It represents 16% of the olive production in Andalucia and is grown mainly in the Spanish provinces of eastern Seville, southern Cordoba and northern Málaga. There you have it. That’s the olives I’m working on.
Collecting or harvesting the olives is mainly done using modern mechanics but manpower is still needed.
Our day begins with us all meeting up and driving the 20 minutes or so to the olive groves to be harvested. Once there, we arm ourselves with 3M long poles, protective glasses, dust masks and suitable footwear.
Lets get to work then!
My compañeros are of course Javier, he’s the boss, Josè Luis, he’s the foreman or head honcho, Nico a Romanian and a young local lad called Juan Antonio. From Saturday onward’s we have been joined by a young gypsy lad called Miguel Jesus. Miguel yaps non stop, just like Nico, the Romanian. Needless to say, there is never a dull moment.
Javier, being the boss, gets the job of driving the tractor that is armed with a vibrator and a large cover. The vibrator is attached to the bottom of the tree and the cover surrounds it. On goes the vibration and the olives start to drop. Some, of course won’t, that’s where we come in.
Whacking the tiny olives with a bloody great pole seems to be overkill but, they have to be persuaded to join the rest of their friends in the catch sheet at the bottom.
Once we have stripped the tree of all the fruit, we move onto the next tree, then the next and the next. As you can guess, its a bloody boring process and hard work as well.
What? That’s it?
Not quite; We have to pile the olives into the trailer and take them to the cooperative (A cooperative is “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs. And aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”) close to the village. Here they are weighed, stripped of any debris from the trees, washed and then mashed to produce olive oil.
While this may sound very dull and hard work, it did have its perks. The location, off the east face of Sierra Gibalto, not far from La Nava has the most breathtaking scenery in Andalucia. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, it was nothing short of beautiful and well worth the hard work.
So, the next time you go to buy Spanish olive oil, just think of me and my friends and the work that goes into producing that lovely stuff.
When you visit La Nava, you are less than 100 yards from one of the biggest olive oil refineries in Andalucia. Pop in and check out how it is made.
How Olive Oil is Made Video
Check out this great video “How Olive Oil is Made.” it will give you an idea of how this great oil is created.