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Olive Oil Production in Spain

Updated on April 9, 2013

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spain

Columela Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 17 oz (3 Pack)
Columela Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 17 oz (3 Pack)

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Olive Oil from the Olive Tree

The olive tree (Olea europea) is grown and cultivated in many Mediterranean regions, as well as South Africa, the US and other parts of the world, but a massive 40% of the world’s commercial olive oil production comes from Spain.

The finest olive oil in the world comes from Andalucia in southern Spain. You have to taste it to understand how the experts can talk of extra virgin olive oil being fruity, or nutty, or one the many expressions of wonder used when describing top grade extra virgin olive oil.

A long-lived tree, the olive can withstand horrendous summer heat and harsh winters and is resistant to drought, frosts and ill-treatment, growing back from the roots if the upper trunk and branches are killed off.

This makes it an amazingly hardy and tough tree, so it is not surprising to learn it has been cultivated for at least 6,000 years and has grown for much longer than that.

I live in a major olive oil production area and from my window I can see many olive trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.

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Olive tree
Olive tree

The Olive Oil Press

My village has an olive press, which the villagers can take their harvested olives to, to be turned into oil. In the autumn when the fruit is mature, nets are laid on the ground around the foot of the trees to catch fallen fruit, and it is common to see people out with ladders to undertake the difficult and time-consuming task of collecting the fruit from the tree by hand.

These olives have to be taken to the oil press within 24 hours of being picked to preserve their flavour as the longer they are left, their acidity rises resulting in poor quality olive oil.

At the press, you can either sell your produce directly to the press owners, or if you are part of the ‘collectivo’, the farmers’ co-operative, you wait and get your share of the profit after the olive oil has been extracted, bottled and sold.

Alternatively, you can hand in your olives and get the equivalent weight in olive oil in return. This olive oil is not necessarily the olive oil from your fruit, but rather what was fresh off the press at the time.

If you wish your own olive oil, you can opt to pay for the privilege for the use of the olive press facilities, but depending on the quantity of olive oil your olives produced, you then have the option of bottling, packaging and selling your own olive oil at great profit to yourself.

Olive Oil and the Mediterranean Diet

Olive oil is much loved in Mediterranean countries, and it is perhaps this love that has led to the Mediterranean diet being called the healthiest in the world.

The Spanish eat olive oil with everything, literally. They use olive oil instead of butter or margarine on sandwiches and bocadillos.

Meats, pastas, vegetables, poultry and fish are all cooked and served with a liberal dose of olive oil. If olive oil is not present as a condiment on the dinner table, it will quickly be asked for.

Olive oil is even used for deep frying which is an expensive habit. Olive oil does not get as hot as other vegetable oils, but once you get used to the taste you can appreciate the difference and not want to return to the oil you used before.

Olive oil is at the heart of the Mediterranean diet, and as such may well be responsible for the healthy hearts the people of Spain have.

Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil is good for you. Rich in monounsaturated fat, it contains essential fatty acids that the body cannot make for itself, but needs nonetheless.

Studies have shown that the regular intake of olive oil can prevent heart disease, slow cancer rates and prevent stomach ulcers.

There are also new studies to suggest that regular consumption of olive oil can correct bipolar disorders.

Olive oil is also laden with vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, E and K which make great antioxidants to fight free radicals within cells of the body.

It also contains iron. Taken as part of a Mediterranean diet, olive oil goes a long way to fulfilling your daily dietary requirements.

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Types of Olive Oil

Olive Oil is divided into 3 types as defined the International Olive Oil Council

Virgin, Extra Virgin and Fine Virgin Olive Oil.

You will see it labelled as such in the shops so you will know what you are buying.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the highest quality you can buy and is completely free of all additives and chemicals. It is DEFINED by having an acidity of under 1% and a high quality organic flavour, as defined by an International Tasting Panel set up to regulate such things. From a score of 1 to 10, olive oils must not only have the low acidity, they must achieve a taste test of at least 6.5 to pass as extra virgin.

Top extra virgin olive oil is very expensive, but also delicious raw on salads or other foods where you can taste the oil.

  • Virgin olive oil has a taste rating of 3.5 (they call this taste rating an organoleptic test) and an acidity level of up to 3.3%. Virgin olive oil is recommended for frying, since the flavour of extra-virgin olive oil tends to break down at frying temperature.
  • Fine virgin olive oil is the middle between the two above with a taste rating of 5.5 and acidity of maximum 1.5%. It can be used for frying or fresh over foods, and is slightly less expensive than extra-virgin olive oil.

All olive oils are expensive, especially when compared to cheap vegetable or sunflower oils, but the health benefits derived from using them are second to none, and it is definitely worth switching your family over to using olive oils for all your cooking needs. What price health?

Storage of Olive Oil

Olive oils crystallise easily, depending on temperature, but this does not harm the oil one little bit.

Although olive oil can be kept in a refrigerator, at temperatures below 16⁰ C (59⁰ F) it tends to crystallise, although leaving at normal room temperature for half an hour before use will see it return to normal.

While it can be frozen, this is not advisable as it expands 2 – 4% which when frozen or refrigerated could break its container.

Optimum storage temperatures are between 18⁰ C – 20⁰ C (64⁰ F – 68⁰ F) and out of direct sunlight. Temperatures above this can biodegrade your olive oil, unless it is in a sealed container with no air access.


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    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 5 years ago from UK

      I like Spanish olive oil. I just wish it was cheaper! No idea about the garlic - no doubt they are still grown in numbers but are perhaps being sold elsewhere, or not sold at all, who knows? As a consumer I would refuse to buy garlic from outside the EC considering it grows perfectly well in Europe, and cheaper does not always mean better.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 5 years ago from Yorkshire


      interersting hub, I usually use olive oil, and in particular Spanish as aoppsed to Greek which I think is a little bitter.

      well writen and useful pictures that make the read easier. It has been such a part of life in the kitchen for thousands of years I don't know what we would have done with out it.

      What's happened to all the Spanish garlic, all we are getting here in UK is CHinese ones which are horrible. Cheaper I expect.



    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

      Hey glad to have helped, and thanks for commenting :)

    • akune profile image

      akune 6 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      Interesting hub! By the way, you really helped me a few months back by replying my question in the forum. Thank you. I love Hub pages and the community feel.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      ROFLMAO!!! Wow you have cheered me up! Thanks that was brilliant!

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      I had to respond about the trees. In Arizona two ladies were picking olives off the ground under an Olive tree. There were very few on the ground but the tree was loaded. Being a country boy , I asked these ladies if they would like alot more and to spread their sacks and coats or a blanket and I climbed into the tree and shook it like the devil. It rained olives , those ladies were covered in olives. Then....

      The owner of the tree popped out of his house and asked what the heck I was doing in his tree lol!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      At Harry, hey kid how's it going? LTNS! You email me, ya hear me? Popeye and belly buttons? Popseye steak and button mushrooms?? But hey, cooked in olive oil!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Mysterylady, butter is much nicer on sandwiches or for making sauces, but olive oil has its place :)

    • profile image

      the howler 7 years ago

      i hate effin olive oil i prefare popeye and nice belly buttons hh xxx

    • mysterylady 89 profile image

      mysterylady 89 7 years ago from Florida

      Congratulations, Izzy. I, too, love olive oil. Being a Southerner, I also love butter. Often, if I saute something, I mix the two.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks hun, that is so nice of you to say so. Beautiful, like us - love it :)

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

      Congrats Izzy, I rated this up, Beautiful like us, Maita

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks PhoenixV for stopping by and commenting :)

      Can't mention olive oils without describing something about the amazing trees they come from! Especially when they are all around me :)

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      Very interesting hub , I really love the photos of the trees and how you integrated into the subject . Its very cool to actually see where the oils/olives come from.The first olive trees I ever saw was in Arizona. I am a novice arborist myself. Congratulations on the nomination and keep up the excellent hard work!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you Sherry for your kind comments. You will not regret switching to olive oil because it really is an extremely healthy product. I should also mention that if you do use olive oil for deep frying, save the oil when it is old and mix it with your dog food instead of throwing it away. Your dog will very quickly develop a beautiful glossy coat! If you don't have a dog, save it for your neighbours dogs.

    • worldgazers profile image

      worldgazers 7 years ago

      Hi IzzyM! What a wonderful atricle! I really enjoyed reading this article and am so glad that I did! I am not a great cook and no very little about oils. Lately I havwe started a diet and I have recipes that called for virgin olive oil. You have helped me to see why and also you have helped me to make the decision to switch to olive oil entirely. You have a great writing skill and I can't wait to hear more from you! Now got to go to the market to purchade some extra virgin oil! See you,

      Sherry Prince

    • Kamran100 profile image

      Kamran100 7 years ago

      great hub..very very useful and benefical

    • Corin profile image

      Corin 7 years ago

      Very informative and useful. Great hub.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks MoneyGlitch! We use olive oil in our house all the time, but you'd think it would be cheaper here seeing as how it's grown on my doorstep, so to speak, but it isn't.

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Great hub IzzyM! It must be wonderful to have the option to be able to pick your own olives, take them to a local olive press, and have such personalized olive oil. Hhhmmm, I love olive oil and try to use it daily for its health benefits. Congrats on being selected as one of this week's "Best Hub" nominees. Good luck to you! :)

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks very much Lamme :)

      I am deeply honoured that this hub has been chosen to be voted on in the competition!

    • Lamme profile image

      Lamme 7 years ago

      Excellent Hub IzzyM. Very informative and enjoyable.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Thanks Nelle :)

      I've not heard about the belly button thing before - it must be a strictly Italian custom!

    • profile image

      Nelle Hoxie 7 years ago

      Wonderfully written and interesting hub. Being half Italian, extra-virgin olive oil is always in stock in my kitchen, and used in many other ways. When I was born my Italian grand mother took gauze soaked in in olive oil and wrapped it around a silver dollar, pressed it on my belly button, and wrapped the gauze around me to ensure I'd have a nice belly button. The good American doctor caring for me had never seen anything like it.