It is in the area of Seville, Spain that I went there ten days to see the harvest of table olives. These are the ones that are consumed as an aperitif or in the kitchen and not those that are pressed for the oil. I was too happy to go to Andalusia. Every year we consider it as a holiday destination but each time the summer weather scares us. But we’ll go one day, we’ll go especially after I get a glimpse of the city.
It took me about forty minutes from my hotel next to the Alcazar to join the olive grove, Huerta de Barros (clay garden) located in Moron de la Frontera.
It belongs to the group group Aceitunas Guadalquivir. Soon after Seville, the landscape changes and the industrial areas are replaced by olive plantations. Spain has 2.5 million hectares, of which 1.8 million are located here. It is also thanks to them that the region is not desert like the Sahara. They create a micro climate that preserves biodiversity means to me my guide. While 90% of this Andalusian production is used for the production of oil, 10% is destined for the production of table olives.
9 olives out of 10 are harvested here by small producers who own on average 7 hectares. The know-how is still very artisanal and we work today almost in the same way as in the time of the Romans. The landscape that you have in front of you, today at 10 am is the same one that a Roman in the 2nd century, explained Francisco Escalante, the director of the property.
There have always been olive trees here. We found traces of 2 oil mills that date back to this time. Our olive trees are old but we replant regularly. They are cuttings, he tells me. We do not plant an olive kernel but an olive branch.
Since I’m a gardener, I asked him to explain to me:
If you plant a kernel, he tells me, you get a new variety of olive. It’s like in a family, the brother and the sister have the same mother and the same father but are not similar. Olives are the same. If you want your olive tree to have the same characteristics as its parent (an olive manzanilla for example), you have to plant a branch.
And you have to know that some varieties are better for oil and others better for the table. The Romans already knew it. They traveled with several branches to plant what they needed. We plant them in packs of 2 to 4, cooking class in french riviera so that there is a competition between the trees. They will deviate from each other enough so that there is sun for all. Nature is amazing.
There are more than 500 varieties of olives in Spain and all are descendants of 2 varieties (father and mother could we say), Gordal de Sevilla and Lechin di Granada.
The part we visit is in organic farming. Olive trees, I’m told, do not require much treatment, even in conventional agriculture. Huerta de Barros is a partner of Birdlife, the largest international association for bird protection. They work for us, says Francesco, smiling as they eat the insects that could attack the olives. And in addition they are free, he adds with a wink. We promote both plant and animal biodiversity and we now rely on the property of 118 different bird species. We also have a lot of bats that are also very useful against pests. And we have another natural weapon, the white clay that we use for two reasons:
The first: sprayed on the leaves, it soiled them and thus protects them from too much dehydration.
The second: The olive is so less brilliant and one of its parasites, the Mediterranean fly does not see it anymore.