Oct. 26, 2012

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Of uncer­tain ori­gins, the Hoji­blanca vari­etal is the third most impor­tant in the Span­ish groves. Proof of this lies in the almost 18 mil­lion olive trees cur­rently grow­ing through­out the heart of Andalu­sia. These trees are capa­ble of adapt­ing to extreme soils and cli­mates, in which other vari­etals can­not always guar­an­tee their own sur­vival.

Cor­nelius could not believe his ears when he finally dis­cov­ered the con­tents of that writ. Cesar had issued an order oblig­ing all land-own­ers in Baet­ica to increase their oil pro­duc­tion in order to sat­isfy the grow­ing needs of the metrop­o­lis.

It was not the first time this anony­mous sub­ject of Rome had heard tell of the much-feared impe­r­ial decrees. In fact, just a few years ear­lier his neigh­bours from Ipa­grum (nowa­days known as Aguilar de la Fron­tera) had been obliged to pull up their Coc­colo­bis vines, an autochtho­nous cul­ti­var from the region. Yet, none of the pre­vi­ous man­dates had affected him so directly.

His estate, located around 14 miles to the south of Iga­brum (cur­rently Cabra), perched on hilly and some­what cal­care­ous lands. There, only a few olive trees grew, that only sprouted fruits a cou­ple of times per lus­trum. So how could he obey the orders received?

After giv­ing the mat­ter a great deal of thought, he remem­bered that olive branch that he had planted in a rocky area a while back. The can­vas trader who vis­ited him every year on his route from Sagun­tum (now Sagunto) had given it to him. This olive tree was dif­fer­ent to all the rest. It was not so spo­radic and its roots took hold in the wild ter­rains that oth­ers had failed to con­quer.


Cor­nelius decided to make a num­ber of clip­pings and plant them very, very care­fully around the orig­i­nal olive tree. With time, the new plan­ta­tion suc­ceeded in fill­ing the amphorae Rome demanded with oil. This olive grove awoke the admi­ra­tion of many farm­ers, although sub­se­quent wars ended up ostra­ciz­ing it.

With time how­ever, this for­got­ten crop was for­tu­nately redis­cov­ered by new colonies which, admired for their gen­er­ous pro­duc­tion and the enor­mous refine­ment of their oils, decided to spread it through­out the area and export it to neigh­bour­ing regions.

As ver­sa­tile as its many names

And so, the his­tory of the Hoji­blanca began in this curi­ous and ran­dom way. A vari­etal which up until decades ago was known as Arola and Oji­blanco. Regard­less of the name it receives, this olive tree type devel­ops in per­fect har­mony with its sur­round­ings, in this case mainly the south of Cor­doba and to the north of Malaga, although it is also present in the provinces of Granada and Seville. Its habi­tat is, in short, the very heart of Andalu­sia, where the tough win­ters and the resis­tant cal­care­ous soils put it sur­vival to the test.

Also his­tor­i­cally known as Casta de Lucena or Casta de Cabra, this is the third most planted vari­etal in Spain, as is made clear by the approx­i­mately 18 mil­lion olive trees cur­rently in exis­tence.

Its oils are con­sid­ered the fun­da­men­tal essence of three Des­ig­na­tions of Ori­gin. They are their rai­son d’être. This is the case of the Cór­doba-based PDO Baena and the PDO Priego de Cór­doba, where the Hoji­blan­cos coex­ist along­side the admirable Picu­dos. For their part, in the province of Seville, the PDO Estepa has suc­ceeded in mas­ter­fully com­bin­ing it with the recently intro­duced Arbe­quina.

To wan­der through the cul­ti­va­tion areas is to walk through white vil­lages brim­ming with his­tory, beauty and tra­di­tions. Sur­rounded by moun­tains and slopes cov­ered in olive woods, among which there are some mag­nif­i­cent exam­ples capa­ble of car­ry­ing loads weigh­ing up to 800 kg of olives in the most gen­er­ous years.

Yet to be dis­cov­ered

The Hoji­blanca is a pres­ti­gious vari­etal. So much so, that today a major com­mer­cial brand of olive oil uses its name, and its fruit is being more and more fre­quently con­sumed as a table olive in Spain thanks, among other things, to its accept­able qual­ity and easy har­vest­ing. They are fruits that ripen very slowly and delay the har­vest, a fact that leads to cer­tain amount of vecería”, or alter­na­tion of high and low yield years, par­tic­u­larly among the old­est cul­ti­vars. Per­haps this is why the oils are so prized in both the sin­gle-vari­etal ver­sion and when com­bined with oth­ers to make a coupage.

Hoji­blanca is a vari­etal that all con­sumers should be famil­iar with. Above all because it is most likely that the oils habit­u­ally used in the kitchen are made of this olive type and that these same fruits con­sti­tute the most recur­rent aper­i­tifs.

Main char­ac­ter­is­tics of the Hoji­blanca vari­etal extra vir­gins

Polyphe­nols200 ppm(*)Low
Vit­a­min E362 ppm(*)High
Sta­bil­ity50 hoursMedium-Low

(*) parts per mil­lion


Spici­nessMedium (Vari­able)


Green grassOcca­sion­ally
Green leafPro­nounced
Fresh grassOcca­sion­ally
Oli­varama arti­cles also appear in Oli­varama mag­a­zine and are not edited by Olive Oil Times.

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