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The Fruit: the olive

It is a fruit harvested from the olive tree which may result in oils of different characteristics and aromas, depending on the stage of maturation and on the variety. The olive pit is covered with a soft green flesh before ripe, then it becomes black or brownish-violet when ripe. It is composed of water (50%), olive oil (22%), carbohydrates (19%), cellulose, fibres (5.8%) and proteins (1.6%).

Being a fruit with a unique richness, its handling must be of extreme care because the conservation of its properties and qualities depends entirely on the time between harvest and transformation that should be as short as possible. Ideally, in order to guarantee an excellent quality of this precious fruit, its transformation must occur within 24 hours from the harvest.

The final result may be either the olive oil extracted from olives of a single variety, that is monovarietal or elemental, or an olive oil from multiple varieties or from the blend of various types of olives.

Depending on the region and on the characteristics of the olive tree, olives have different attributes and qualities, being more prominent the following varieties:

Carrasquenha

 

Easily adaptable to different soil types, to dry climates and sensitive to humidity. A high quality olive oil results from its transformation.

Cobrançosa

Easily adaptable to cold climates and soils rich in limestone which results in a tree vulnerable to drought and salinity. In Portugal its genesis lies in Trás-os-Montes.

 

The result of the transformation is a medium-quality olive oil, rich in medium linoleic acid.
Its main characteristics are its lightness and its moderate fruity aroma, emphasized by green herbs. It is slightly bitter and spicy when the olives are harvested before ripe. However, when fruits are harvested while ripe, turn out to be sweeter and smoother.

Cordovil

It’s a variety that tolerates cold weather, drought and salinity, standing out the ones from Castelo Branco and Serpa.

The final product is a high quality olive oil, or table green olives, since the separation of the pit from the flesh is easy. The olive oil is very fine, with a peculiar intense fruity aroma, an emphasized green coloured leaf and a medium bitter-spicy taste.

Galega

It is a drought tolerant variety, sensitive to cold weather, salinity and limestone, being the most common in Portugal, mainly in Beiras, Alentejo and Algarve regions. From the transformation of this kind of olive fruit it mainly results olive oil despite its low production.

It is also appreciated as table olive, given the easy separation of the pit from the flesh. It is an olive oil with a smooth, sweet, scarcely bitter or spicy aroma.

Maçanilha Algarvia

It is a tolerant variety to cold weather, drought and salinity. Of the transformation may result good quality olive oil or ripe table green olives. Given its size, caliber and ease of separation of the pit from the flesh, these olives are much appreciated for canning while green.

Verdeal

It is a variety that easily adapts to every kind of Portuguese soil, being frequent in Alentejo and Trás-os-Montes.

Its transformation results mainly in a very fine olive oil, with a marked and persistent fruity taste, with a green colour leaf and a very bitter and spicy flavour.

Madural ou Negral

One of the rarest varieties of olives produced in Portugal is the one essentially used in Trás-os-Montes olive oil