Olive oil has been known and used by the great civilizations since times of antiquity. It has many healthy qualities which have earned it the nickname liquid gold, as well as being a staple of the Mediterranean diet, a type of cuisine which is spreading all over the world and taking olive oil with it.
The first olives in the Iberian Peninsula were cultivated in Cádiz and Seville; Cádiz was an enclave much frequented by the Phoenicians, who maintained important economic relations via their port, as well as Seville, whose river, the Guadalquivir, was always navigable.
The Spanish province of Jaén claims to be the “World Capital of Olive Oil”, for being the place with the greatest concentration of olive and olive oil production. The most abundant variety of olive in the province of Jaén is the Picual, although Royal, Arbequina and Cornicabra olives are also cultivated there.
The province of Jaén currently boasts three protected designations of origin (D.O.P) of olive oil: Sierra de Segura, Sierra de Cazorla and Sierra Mágina. The best quality olive oil comes from olives that are mature and healthy before they are harvested. And Spain without doubt produces the best olive oils in the world.
The Spanish culinary culture does not make sense without olive oil. It is the essential oil used for cooking dishes and dressing salads, fish, meat and vegetables. When olive oil is around, forget saturated fats such as lard, butter and margarine. People are well aware of this in the Mediterranean countries in general, and Spain in particular, because the Mediterranean diet would not be what it is without olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is the only one that is consumed exactly as it is “expressed” from the fruit. Its production process is simple and does not alter the properties of the “juice” obtained. Other vegetable oils come mainly from seeds, and chemical processes are involved in their production, making these oils less natural compared with extra virgin olive oil.
Can you imagine a greater pleasure than a tasty chunk of bread spread with extra virgin olive oil for breakfast? Its aromatic nuances, its blend of sweetness and bitterness and the way it tingles the taste buds are the perfect finishing touch to any dish.
If you are visiting Spain, do not forget to try the olive oil. You will be sure to return home with several liters of “liquid gold” in your suitcase! You can never get too much of a good thing.
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