It’s All Down To Amazing Liquid Gold
Besides Spain’s sunny climate, it’s the healthy Spanish lifestyle that’s driven millions of British citizens to the shores of this fantastic Mediterranean country. Spain is the world’s largest producer of Olive Oil, and it’s the best olive oil in the world!
This is the story of the ‘Amazing Liquid Gold and the Healthy Mediterranean Diet!’
Recipe For Ali Oli
- Grind a peeled garlic head with salt until a paste.
- Put a small amount of milk, or 2 egg yolks into blender, and slowly add olive oil until mixture becomes thick. Keep adding the oil until it is the consistency you require.
- Add garlic paste, lemon juice, and seasoning to taste.
The real name is “All i Oli“, from the Catalan for Garlic and Oil.”
Anyone used to shopping in British supermarkets will notice that in Spanish supermarkets there are rows of shelves displaying a vast array of olive oil brands; the shelves are akin to the range of wines on display. Yet, there is something more to notice; in the Spanish supermarkets you will find only small shelf space for biscuits and sweets. No wonder the Spanish, and Mediterranean way of eating is considered so healthy.
Spanish Olive Oil Is The Best!
Of course, to all those who love Spain, Spanish oil is consider the very best. With a wide range of aromas and tastes, who can cast doubt! Some Spanish olive oil tastes sweet and smooth, whereas other types are more full-bodied with varying intensities of character, pleasant bitterness or more pungency. In particular, Spanish olive oils usually have an intense fruity aroma.
Experiment, as you would do with wine, and choose from the numerous flavours, those that your suit your tastes.
Factoid! Of all the oils produced for human consumption, olive oil is the only oil that is extracted from fresh fruit.
Italy may have a claim to having the best Olive Oil, but in reality they are the biggest importer of Spanish oil, expertly blending this fantastic oil, enabling Italy to be the world’s largest exporter.
History of Olive Oil Cultivation in Spain
Factoid! The Spanish language term for ‘oil’ is “aceite”, deriving from the Arab word for olive, al zaytun. “Oliva” in Spanish means only the olive tree, not the oil itself.
Oil cultivation in Spain began over 3,000 years ago when the Phoenicians and the Greeks introduced the olive tree (Olea Europea) into Spain around 1100 years BC.
During the Roman occupation of Spain, olive oil production expanded and improved with new recovery techniques.
Archaeological evidence: starting in the 1st century BC, and covering a 260 year period, shows some 6.5 billion litres of oil was imported into the Roman Empire, and 85% of this was grown in Andalucia. Further historical evidence, taken from the ancient book ‘De Bello Hispanico’, describes how Julius Caesar’s cavalry planted many olive trees close to Sevilla.
Olive, and olive oil production continued to grow in Spain during the occupation of the Moors, with most of the trees surviving, and laying witness to many terrible Spanish wars.
Today, it is estimated there are some 215 million olive trees in Spain, covering over 3 million acres, meaning that over 43.8% of the world’s olive production is grown in Spain, with an annual production of over 600,000 metric tons of olive oil.
Olive oil IS Mediterranean cooking, it is the crux of Mediterranean life; a spice, a herb, a condiment, a salve, an offering, a philosophy, a trophy, and a great source of healthy energy.
History Of The Olive Tree And Its Oil
For as long as legends have been a part of history, Olives, together with its oil have been steeped in symbolic values of popular beliefs and religions. We mustn’t forget that long-ago, olive oil was not just a food and medical source, it was also used to light lamps, and to cook. Therefore, because it was so essential, olive oil became known as liquid gold.
Olive trees have been known, and now verified through carbon dating, to survive thousands of years – bearing witness to long forgotten times and legends. This could be the reason why the olive tree is regarded as a symbol of patience. Furthermore, the olive tree is also the symbol of immortality. It’s said, that planting an olive tree on your land, is the best legacy you could provide for your grandchildren!
Many a king, queen, and priests have been anointed with olive oil.
Oil traders in Ancient Rome dedicated a temple and a statue to Hercules Olivarius.
The quote from Pliny the Roman author, say it all; ‘Sip the wine and splash the oil!’
Ancient Pomeiani wouldn’t wash their hair with anything other than olive oil – could this have been the forerunner of the ‘Brylcreem’ brand?
Since the first Olympic Games 776 BC, to honour Zeus, athletes were massaged with olive oil in the belief that the wisdom, power and strength of Athena would be bestowed upon them. (In Part 2 we will explain the evidence on how and why this was such good practice.) Winners in the games were awarded olive leaf crowns and olive oil.
The olive harvesting of the ancients was incredibly advanced for its time, aided by astronomy which was said to predict poor harvests. Thales of Miletus used his astronomical observations to predict an abundant harvest for 596 BC. He immediately built new oil-presses, making many Greeks rich in a year.
Olive oil had many uses in ancient Greece, although social status was a factor. Poor people for instance, could not afford to consume olive oil. While the rich were able to use olive oil in cooking, for cleaning their bodies, and for lighting.
Hippocrates mentions 60 different conditions which could be treated with olive oil, such as skin conditions, wounds and burns, gynaecological ailments, ear infections, just to mention a few. (Watch out for Part II!)
When medicine was not enough to save the patient, olive oil was used in laying out the dead. Women washed the body, and finally they used olive oil to anoint. Olive oil, as well as wine, honey, and other products were offered to the dead at the graveside.
The legend still exists, that if you should come upon a statue of Zeus, you should polish it with olive oil, whereby the spirit of Zeus would be so honoured by your reverence to him, that he would grant you a long and happy life. (Warning! It is highly doubtful that the Archaeological Museum in Athens would understand your quest.)
In periods of war, couriers of peace were sent holding a symbolic olive branch in their hand. Irena the goddess of peace, the daughter of Zeus, was depicted with an olive branch in her hand, and an owl, the symbol of wisdom (see image above).
Factoid! Olive boughs have crowned heroes, as well as Olympic champions.
In Greek legend, the goddess Athena gave the olive tree to the people, and anyone who dared damage them were punished by law. This therefore raises the question; would careful pruning of the trees be allowed?
And, but not least; a well groomed ancient Greek would smear olive oil over his body, hence the term a ‘Greek god’ (probably!).
Olive Trees, and the Bible
We read in the Bible that the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed, and was arrested by Roman soldiers, was according to His disciples, an olive grove.
Psalm 52:8 – English Standard Version: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.”
There are many instances of the olive tree being mentioned in the Bible and in the Koran.
A Turkish travel guide mentioned the legend; there was a time when olive trees stood straight and tall, but that was until an olive tree was cut down to crucify Jesus, and since then the olive tree’s wood has been twisted in its agony of shame.