Olives have played a small but integral part in world history, yet nobody ever really notices this. Think about it, winners at the first Olympics were given an olive wreath to wear on their heads, we extend an olive branch as a sign of peace, and even Popeye's lanky girlfriend was named Olive Oil. The signs are clear, if olives are good enough for athletic glory, peace, and a belligerent sailor, they're good enough for all of us.By now we've all heard that olive oil is an integral part of the "Mediterranean diet" which medicine has associated with sensible portions and slower, more enjoyable eating. Studies have shown that those who partake in the "Mediterranean diet" to have a remarkable variety of health benefits. It's even suggested that olive oil decreases the rate of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, it helps lower dangerous blood cholesterol and is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. How about that? A combination of olive oil and a diet rich in vegetables and fish is healthy, delicious, and satisfying!
The Adriatic coast has a centuries old tradition of olive harvesting and processing to reap the benefits of olive oil. From the northern coast to Dubrovnik and all the islands included, olive trees dot the landscape throughout the Croatian Adriatic. Olive oil today is still as important a part of the diet in Dalmatia as it always was. And in spite of some minor technological advances the process is more or less the same.
Olives are picked from the end of October to the end of the Christmas period, and there are a few of methods of doing so. Some pickers hack away at branches, collecting the whole thing and plucking olives off one by one later. Other growers use a rake to bring down the olives, or a more painstaking route is to pick individual goodies straight from the tree. The results are collected in a box called a Takalać, which the pickers later sift through to sort out the fruit from the twigs and leaves.
After the harvest comes the pressing part. Literally. Back in the day, the olives would be pressed on a stone wheel turned either by hand or maybe beast of burden. The olives would be set on a mat and put under the wheel, squeezing them to a pulp as all the juicy goodness ran out of them. Today, most olives are no longer pressed by stone wheel, they're drained using hydraulic presses. The rest of the process is really no different from the old school days. The first press yields the extra virgin oil, that is the oil of the highest quality, which must be made from green olives that are not too ripe. Subsequent pressing of the pulp will get you more olive oil, but the quality isn't quite the same as the first.
Some homes on the coast still use a stone basin to hold the oil, but usually it's placed in bottles (glass is the best for the oil) and stored for the coming winter and summer. Once bottled, the oil has a lifespan of about 2 years. A lot of locals in Dalmatia sell their oil to tourists, and it's good stuff. The oil should have a greenish tint and strong aroma. A liter usually costs about 10€, but haggling can't hurt. Get there and buy some home made oil, all of you!
This text has been created to acquaint the public with the olive growing tradition - it is not a scientific or expert text.
Days of the Young Olive Oil24 - 26 November
The Days of the Young Olive Oil is the region’s largest and most important olive festival. It is back with a bang in 2023 and ready to bring together olive lovers of all shapes and sizes through tastings, exhibitions, culinary masterclasses and more. The festival takes place in Vodnjan, a delightful town just 10km north of Pula.
Oblica Olive OilAfter a busy life working in IT, Frenchman Christian Bouas purchased an olive grove on Brač, ready to spend his retirement in gorgeous surroundings without a care in the world. Little did he know that his second life as an olive oil maestro was about to begin. Oblica Olive Oil isn’t your bog-standard industry oil. Quite the opposite, in fact, as this hand-picked, organically-farmed, cold-pressed oil is just about perfect, from conception to degustation. Named after the gorgeous olive endemic to Croatia, Oblica is a family affair that leaves no stone unturned in the quest for excellence, with every step of the process detailed on the bottle, from the harvesting team to the oil’s acidity and beyond. Bottling occurs immediately upon ordering, ensuring total freshness, which is evident in every single drop. Bouas has created something special, although it could be said that the humble oblica olive itself (not to mention the wild beauty and conditions on Brač) do most of the heavy lifting. The oil has been proclaimed the ‘Best Pure Olive Oil in the Northern Hemisphere’, and we aren’t about to disagree.
In Your Pocket Editors Favourite Olive OilsSalvela Buža - Extra virgin olive oil for Vodnjan using an indigenous Istrian variety known as the Queen of Olives
Monterosso Grand Selection - Extra virgin olive oil from the company’s own plantation
Exclusive Selection Brista - A limited series of olive oil made from the finest fruit of centuries-old trees
San Antonio single-variety - Sumptuous olive oils with organic certification
Sveti Ivan - Produced in Vodica from the famous indigenous Oblica olive
Kota Lastovka - A fabulous Kota olive oil from Nadin, made from the Lastovka variety
Krvavica OPG Ante Sladić - Delicious oil made from Krvavica olives, found in and around Skradin