`Olive Oil Festival Continues Galician Tradition

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Olive Oil Festival Continues Galician Tradition

Feb. 22, 2012
Naomi Tupper

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The north west­ern province of Gali­cia in Spain is not well known for its olive oil pro­duc­tion, unlike the regions fur­ther south and east, how­ever, the val­ley of Quiroga close to Lugo con­tin­ues to hold a annual fes­ti­val to cel­e­brate the small but his­tor­i­cal pro­duc­tion of oil in this region.

Olive trees are thought to have been intro­duced to Gali­cia dur­ing the Roman inva­sion, how­ever, the olive oil indus­try was threat­ened and close to destroyed in the 15th cen­tury. A man­date by Catholic mon­archs and raised taxes for olive har­vesters caused the major­ity of olive trees through­out Gali­cia to be cut down.

How­ever, in the val­ley of Quiroga, and a few other iso­lated regions, trees sur­vived and con­tinue to serve for oil pro­duc­tion, although on a greatly reduced scale. The val­ley hosts eigh­teen restored olive mills, how­ever only one of these is still in use, restored as the owner was reluc­tant to see an impor­tant mon­u­ment to the his­tory of the region be lost.

This desire to con­tinue the his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion of the val­ley and for even­tual com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the local olive oil gave rise to the valley’s olive oil fes­ti­val. The fes­ti­val attracts con­sumers from all over Spain, and fea­tures the year’s har­vest of oil, along with other local prod­ucts such as liqueurs and honey.

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Vis­i­tors can taste oils from the five local har­vesters, who pro­duce about 1600L of oil a year, pri­mar­ily for per­sonal use and sell only what is sur­plus to their require­ments. Olive oil sells for about 20 euros a liter at the fes­ti­val, and dif­fers vastly from those which can be found in the super­mar­ket in flavour, with the char­ac­ter­is­tic taste asso­ci­ated with Gali­cian olive oils per­fect for tra­di­tional dishes such as Pulpo á Feria (boiled octo­pus with paprika and olive oil).

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in this region has increased in the past years and is set to be even greater in years to come with fur­ther cul­ti­va­tion of trees in the val­ley and sur­round­ing areas, where sim­i­lar cli­matic con­di­tions make for good growth.

San­ti­ago based com­pany, Inva­tia Research, has pio­neered large scale extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion in Gali­cia with its Olei olive oil, which is tar­geted at the gourmet’ mar­ket and exported around the world. It is hoped that Gali­cian olive oil will in time be clas­si­fied under a denom­i­na­tion of ori­gin, fur­ther pro­mot­ing the prod­uct.

The fes­ti­val will be held on the 26th of Feb­ru­ary in 2012, and allows vis­i­tors a chance to view a demon­stra­tion of tra­di­tional olive oil pro­duc­tion in the orig­i­nal olive mill, as well as to see tra­di­tional dances and activ­i­ties.



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