Thursday, 11 October 2007

Different varieties of Spanish olive oil

As mentioned in our last article, the mythical olive tree still produces the flavoursome, exquisite and healthy oil that constitutes one of the basic ingredients of Spanish cuisine.

This comes as no surprise if we take into account the fact that Spain produces almost half of all olive oil consumed in the world! The most important production areas are: Andalusia -with over 60% of Spanish production-, Catalonia, Castilla-la-Mancha and Extremadura.

There are up to 30 olive varieties currently being cultivated in Spain for the production of olive oil. The main ones are: Picual from Jaen, Cornicabra from Castilla-la-Mancha, Hojiblanca from Córdoba and Málaga, Lechin from Seville, Empeltre from Aragon and the Balearic Islands and Arbequina from Catalonia.

The first four varieties, all from Andalusia, produce tangy, bitter, fruity and slightly spicy olive oils, very suitable for cooking and fried dishes (the typical Andalusian “fritos”). On the other hand, the Catalan Arbequina olive variety gives sweet, soft and fragrant olive oils, excellent for salads, boiled vegetables, omelettes, mayonnaise and fish dishes.

Let’s go into more detail:
  • ARBEQUINA: it takes its name from the town of Arbeca, located in Les Garrigues county (Lleida- Catalonia) where endless fields of olive trees inundate the landscape. The oil obtained from this variety is delicate but widely appreciated for its fragrance. Its colour is generally dark yellow with a hint of green. Its fruity aroma and sweet and slightly bitter taste lightens up admirably well any salad. It is also an essential ingredient of “pa amb tomaquet” (tomato bread).
  • CORNICABRA: grown in Toledo’s mountain range, this variety gives a balanced and aromatic olive oil. Its fruity and sweet flavour with reminisces of apple and almonds make a perfect salad dressing and it is often used in the preparation of sauces.
  • EMPELTRE: it is grown mainly in Bajo Aragón and the main trait of this olive oil is its captivating golden yellow colour. The ripened black fruits are recollected quite late hence the clear colour, sweet aroma and smooth taste. Due to its sweetness and light texture this variety of olive oil goes well with salads, fish and vegetables.
  • HOJIBLANCA: a popular variety in Andalucia, it is grown in the provinces of Sevilla, Córdoba and Málaga. It produces fragrant, fresh and slightly tangy and piquant oils that are very much appreciated in the preparation of hearty dishes and “frituras”.
  • LECHÍN: it is the reminiscence of fresh herb that determines the main aromatic trait of the fresh and silky olive oils obtained from this variety of olives grown mainly in Sevilla and Cádiz. Its bitter and piquant taste makes a good match to strong dishes.
  • PICUAL: Carpets of olive trees paint the landscape of Jaén, the region in the world with a highest percentage of olive oil production. The main variety grown in this area is Picual with its greenish shades, fresh aromas, fruity taste and a hint of piquant. Ideal to prepare “frituras” and hearty dishes.
Besides the most popular varieties describe here, there are others that complete the map of olive tree growing in Spain. Royal, Farga, Argudell or Morrut in Catalonia; Picudo, Manzanilla or Gordal in Andalucia; Blanqueta in València; Morisca orVerdial in Extremadura are some fine examples of the richness and tradition associated to olive oil production.

For a fine selection of Spanish extra virgin olive oils please visit our Spanish food online store.


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