We transport ourselves to the majestic olive groves of Jaén to talk all about Spanish olive oil with special guest and olive oil aficionado, Lucas Soler.
Listen to this episode free on the player below or on your favourite podcast app.
Lucas was born in Barcelona but even though he has spent nearly all of his life in the US, olive oil has always remained in his blood. Since a young age 'liquid gold' has been a staple of his diet.
When Lucas's mother bought an olive grove for the family in Almería 25 years ago, his passion for olive oil was re-ignited. Faced with a lack of good quality EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) in the US, Lucas spotted a businesses opportunity. He set up his own company called Olive Oil Grove oliveoilgrove.com where he imports the best possible quality Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the US market.
In the episode Lucas talks us through the different grades of olive oil, the health benefits and what you should look for when choosing great quality Spanish olive oil. We even do a virtual transatlantic olive oil tasting where we compared notes on the Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil that Lucas has sourced from a grove in Jaén following a trip there last year in the midst of the lockdown - a story he also shares in the episode.
Lucas also dazzles us with some truly incredible facts and figures about Spanish olive oil and I run through the ancient history of olives and olive oil to find out how it became so popular in Spain.
Find out more about Lucas, his business, Olive Oil Grove at oliveoilgrove.com.
Also find him on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/oliveoilgrove/
and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/OliveOilGrove/
HISTORY OF OLIVES AND OLIVE OIL
The first expansion of Olive cultivation seems to be around Greece and Egypt around 1700 BC. The Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete is part of that legacy. Stone tablets found dating back to 2500 BC from the court of King Minos of Crete make reference to this plant.
And it was the Greek poet Homer who coined the term liquid gold.
Later the Phoenicians around 1000 BC brought Olives to Spain via Northern Africa.
The expansion of the Roman Empire was key to Olive oil. Romans first mastered the art of olive cultivation, allowing the Iberian peninsula to become the biggest producer in the Roman Empire. Olive oil from Hispania was highly regarded by the inhabitants of Old Rome, as well as by the rest of the Roman Empire, that considered it superior quality.
The oldest reliable reference to the cultivation of olives in Spain may be found in the book De Bello Hispanico, which describes the landscape of the territories during Julius Caesar's campaigns. The book recounts an anecdote about Caesar's cavalry set in an olive grove close to Sevilla, thus giving written evidence of olive tree plantations in Andalucía in the 1st century BC.
Archaeological evidence found in the excavations at Monte Testaccio – which is an artificial mound in Rome composed almost entirely of fragments of broken ancient Roman pottery, indicate that over a period of two hundred sixty years, Rome imported some six billion five hundred million litres of olive oil of which 85% was produced in Andalucía.
Then, when the Moors settled on the Iberian peninsular, they expanded upon local knowledge by bringing their revolutionary irrigation techniques. Production increased greatly and olive oils gained more popularity. In fact, the importance of the Arab influence is evident by the fact that the Spanish word for oil - aceite - comes from the Arabic - az-zayt الزَّيْت "oil", and az-zaytūn الزَّيْتُون "olive", which gives us the Spanish word aceituna.