I have let this blog sit for quite some time (life gets busy, etc.), but as I begin planning some travel along the Mediterranean basin next summer, I want to start writing again, and to incorporate olives into some of my travel. Cultivation of olive trees has been happening for thousands of years, and there is evidence that olive oil was produced and used by humans as far back as 8000 years ago. Olive trees grow throughout the Mediterranean basin, with some trees estimated to be more than 1000 years old and still producing oil.
I find the trees themselves to be quite beautiful. One of my favorite olive-related travel memories was driving thought the Extremadura region in Spain and looking out at all the beautiful trees. The region is covered in olive and cork trees, and both contribute to the unique flavors of the region. The olives are fairly obvious: they produce both fruit and olive oil that are consumed in Spanish homes and exported for others to enjoy. The cork oaks produce cork when the outer layer of the tree is removed (it grows back). They also produce acorns, which are consumed by the local pigs, providing an essential ingredient for producing Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, a delicious cured ham generally served in very thin slices. These two trees define much of the landscape in the region, and provide homes for many varieties of birds and other wildlife. The picture at the top of this page is of an olive tree located on the grounds of a B&B in Spain owned by family friends (Finca Flores Amarillas) in a beautiful spot outside of a small town in the Extremadura region. If you ever stay there, tell them Claire sent you, and see if they have any of their house-cured olives made from their own trees (they are incredibly good).
Looking forward to next summer, I want to find other olive-related places to visit. I am considering visiting ancient olive groves, an international conference for olive oil producers, and some fantastic restaurants with Mediterranean cuisine which feature olives in their dishes. What other places or experiences should I consider? Thanks for helping me craft a Summer of Olives!