Olive oil in the US
Consumption of olive oil in the US has increased by 35 percent since 2004. According to the International Olive Oil Council, Spanish exports to the States are up 43 percent over last year. In the 11 months from October 2015 to August 2016, for the first time ever, the US imported more olive oil from Spain than from Italy.
Of course, we all know how indispensable olive oil has become in our daily lives, but what is the origin of this nutritionally rich product?
The true origin of olive oil
The geographical origin of olive oil is not completely definite, but one thing is sure - it originated from the eastern Mediterranean, where it has been a key ingredient of the diet for many thousands of years.
Olive juice may have come from ancient Phoenicia (parts of modern-day Syria and Lebanon), but more likely from Greece, where it was considered a gift from the goddess Athena.
According to one theory the Phoenicians introduced the olive tree to Spain in around 1000 BC, meaning the fruit has almost a three millennia history in the country. The Romans spread olive cultivation throughout Spain in the 1st century BC, turning it into a business and even accepting olive oil as tax payment. The Moors (Islamic North Africans) introduced more advanced cultivation and production techniques; you can still see their irrigation channels around Spain.
However, even if olive oil is not originally from Spain, it has been integral to Spanish diet, agriculture and indeed daily life for centuries.
What makes Spanish Olive Oil so good?
The mixture of the climate and soil in Spain make for a great environment for the production of olive oil. Olive trees evolved around the Mediterranean and generally the olives produced in this area are of exceptional quality. But the production process is also influenced by other factors, such as the harvesting method, the timing, and how the oil is produced.
Half of the world’s olive oil is made in Spain, with 80 percent produced in the southern region of Andalusia, and 7 out of 10 of the best olive oils come from Spain. The longest-established olive oil in Spain is La Española, which dates back to 1840.
La Española is one of Spain’s popular and widely-exported olive oils, available in 35 different countries, including the US. Many people around the world are coming to realize what the Spanish have known for centuries - that olive oil is one of the healthiest and most versatile cooking ingredients you can buy.