Green Gold from Andalucia
Organic Spanish olive oil is rapidly increasing in popularity, exports to the far East, particularly Japan are on the up due to the natural qualities of what some regard as “Green Gold”. Back in December we met Maria Jose, a stall holder and one half of “Eco Valles” at the Orce “Eco Fair”, an event where local small businesses gather to display and promote their products – all of which are purely organic. Events such as these are priceless in terms of sourcing new suppliers and also premium quality produce.
At the eco fair we were invited to go and visit the olive press and see for ourselves the production in its entirety. The time of year was also ideal, afterall visiting an olive oil press during the summer months is significantly less interesting compared to viewing all manner of machinery in action and turnaround of olives which only happens at the back end of the winter.
As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to see a Father and son team pull their typically battered Spanish pickup over the grid and begin to unload 50kg bags of ripe black olives. Almost simultaneously a confusing arrangement of belts, elavators, silos and other machinery sprung into action. Leaves and other undesirables were discarded with an uncanny efficiency and what remained were just pure black olives. Perched high above the operation was the office which, in true modern day style had no less than four computers weighing, gauging, measuring and churning out receipts. It was however not always like this…
The old part of the mill which will eventually be turned into museum was like going back in time. Jose who was guiding us around the plant explained that the majority of olive oil producers went “modern” around 1988, however this business continued to use the old machinery right up until 2003. Jose went on to explain how the olives in days gone by were crushed using woven mats and pressure from some very impressive and old fashioned machinery. Observing the modern side of the business and the old both in the same place gave you a very stark reminder of how times have changed and how much physical work went into olive production in the last century.
The modern side of the business was, to say the least, spotless. Enormous temperature regulated vats held 50,000 liters each and there were also all manner of other machinery and equipment regulating and testing right through to sticking labels on the bottles. If this sounds a bit industrial then rest assured that Eco Valles have certainly earned their success to invest in such modern technology through their very evident high standards and resulting quality of the oil they produce. The Olive press is still a small affair though, even with the introduction of shiny new vats and equipment this business has had to move with the times and has done so with a degree of keeping the past firmly in place…
So what is the olive oil like? Well exquisite of course! Having tasted the Eco Valles olive oil over various dished we can say with the utmost confidence that this organic oil is up there with the best of them – light, fresh and grassy with peppery hints Eco Valles is a delicious organic all rounder but we must say that it performs particularly well over a Spanish ham salad and also with fish dishes.