All over Andalucia small groups of people are working from dust until dawn to get you those olives with your tapas, or your olive oil.
Picking olives is hard work.
In general it's still done as it has been done for a century: hitting the branches with a pole so that the olives drop onto a sheet.
And then to the next tree. And the next. And the next.
An olive tree can handle that, for it's a very strong tree. In Andalucia, many of them are close to a 100 years old, and have been providing many a generation with its fruit.
Fruit? Is an olive a fruit?
Yes it is. It is the small, bitter tasting fruit of the olive tree. They are classified as a fruit because they are formed from the ovary of the olive flower and because of their seed-bearing structure.
Where do these olives go?
At the end of every day, the olives are brought to the local Olive Mill.
Nowadays that usually means a cooperative, installed for the protection of all locals who contribute to the process. In this olive mill a part is being processed and turned into olive oil that is sold with a local label on it.
The main chunk though goes to whole salers, usually in the most nearby city-sized town. These whole salers sell to local restaurants but also the supermarket chains that - trickling down a long ladder - package and distribute it to your local supermarket.
What's the difference between green and black olives?
Well, black olives are actually over-ripe green olives that are then treated with chemicals. This is done to make the olive less bitter and more flavourful.
A great tip as souvenir
During your holiday in inland Andalucia, go to a local olive mill!
Or ask the locals where you can buy a bottle of the local olive oil.
It's a great gift for people back home, for this way you are really sure the olive oil is authentic and fresh, and it's up to 3 times cheaper than buying something less authentic at the Airport.
About olives and 'aceitunas'...
The whole world calls them 'olives', except for the Spanish!
For in Spanish, an olivo is the olive tree.
The tree is named olivo and its fruits are aceitunas.
Hence, olive oil is aceite de aceitunas.
The health benefits of eating olives
May you all enjoy your next tapa with olives, think of the hard work that has gone into it, AND of the benefits that are attributed to them. Eating olives is thought to be good for:
- Cardiovascular benefits
- Cancer prevention
- Skin and hair health
- Bone and connective tissue
- Digestive tract health
- Good source of iron
- Eye health