Olive oil is sought after for its health benefits, particularly virgin and extra virgin olive oil. Health benefits that derive from the monounsaturated fat and antioxidants in olives. Every year the demand for Spanish olive oil is enormous. Spain is the world's leading producer of olive oil, with approximately 975 thousand tons produced per year.
When the Romans invaded Hispania in 212 BC they planted trees and introduced the production of olive oil. Since then, business exploded and it has become the center of Spanish cuisine and culture. The Romans developed the industry over the next 200 years, exporting massive amounts back to Italy. Spanish olive oil became so famous that the Emperor Hadrian included the tree branch on the banner of Hispanic Rome.
It is hard to ignore the massive olive tree plantations sprawled across southern Spain, specifically in Jaen, Sevilla, and Cordoba. Spanish olives contain an impressive amount of nutrients and vitamin E. The harvesting process plays a key role in determining the olive's ultimate flavor and quality. The earlier the harvest of the fruit, the greener, stronger, and more bitter the flavor will be. Later, the product is golden, more milder and buttery.
There are over 260 different types of Spanish olives but only a small percent of those varieties are actually used in the oil making process. Among the most notable are Arbequina, Manzanilla, Picual, Gordal and Aloreña...to name a few. Each has a unique flavor profile and come to life in different ways after they are brine-cured. They are often stuffed with anchovies, peppers, or cracked and dressed with fresh garlic and other spices.
Spanish olives and olive oil are among the best in the world and are exported to all continents, but beware of the imitators. Nothing compares to the authentic product, it really is liquid gold!
Given its importance throughout Spain, perhaps visit a Spanish olive oil producer in Andalusia or Catalonia to discover the roots, traditions and varieties of the center of Spanish cuisine.
Here are some top quality Spanish olive oils that we really like and that you can easily purchase online. Enjoy!