Every autumn in the Spanish city of Baena in Andalusia takes place Festival of Olives and Olive Oil (Las Jornadas del Olivar y el Aceite), dedicated to the end of the harvest in olive groves, as well as everything connected with these unique fruits. It has been held annually since 1998, from 9 to 11 November and is the largest European festival of olive oil and olives.
But in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, festival events may be canceled.
The small town of Baena is considered one of the world leaders in the production of olive oil, which, in turn, is the basis of true Andalusian cuisine. Therefore, at the festival, it is customary to thank for the gifts of earthly and heavenly fun, music, dancing and a generous feast. Indeed, it is in November that the harvest is already fully harvested, processed, and local residents are ready for the arrival of thousands of tourists to share this delicacy.
It is worth noting that there are hundreds of varieties of olives and olives in Spain, ranging from black to pale yellow. After all, as it is impossible to imagine Italian cuisine without the famous Parmesan cheese, it is so unrealistic to imagine Spanish dishes without an olive. In general, Spain accounts for 45% of the world’s olive oil production, and Baena is one of the two regions in Andalusia that are famous for the greatest variety in the use of olives, it is also called the “Spanish capital of olives”. The area of olive orchards around the city is about 400 sq. Km.
Olive – the oldest fruit crop, was widespread in primitive society; even then, people knew about its healing properties. The history of cultivation of olive trees began about 6-7 thousand years ago, and wild olives have existed since prehistoric times. The Greeks were the first to make olive oil, then this “skill” appeared in other territories. For the trade in oil and table olives, Ancient Greece developed shipbuilding. Even the ancient Russians bought olives from Greek merchants for the table of the princes of Kiev. Even then, olive oil was considered the main source of youth and beauty. Homer called it liquid gold, Aristotle singled out the study of the beneficial properties of olive oil as a separate science, Lorca devoted poetry to olive, Hippocrates confirmed the beneficial properties of olive oil and created several methods of treatment with its use. And today this wizard oil is valued more than any other oil in the world.
After all, a tiny olive is a capacious vessel, half filled with selected oil. The second half is a delicate peel and a wonderful bone, which easily dissolves in the intestines without a trace, which only the most useful representatives of the natural world are capable of. An olive from their limited number. It is successfully used by chefs, doctors and perfumers. The main feature and value of olive oil is that it contains a large amount of oleic acid, due to which cholesterol is removed from the body and slows down the aging process. Real olive oil (first cold pressed) must be unrefined, unfiltered, free of preservatives and dyes, and free from defects in taste and aroma.
And, of course, collecting olives is a whole ritual. Fruits cannot stand hands at the time of harvest, so open sacks are laid out under the trees, they beat on the trunks with sticks, and the olives fall directly into the sacks. They are harvested only green and at dawn – the heat harms the collection of fruits. The olives consumed are varied. There are almost two hundred types of these fruits on the trade account of the European Union, and olive oil is like wine. Like a drink, it can be elite, ordinary and counterfeit. However, olive oil is more capricious than wine – it is harder to store and its age is short.
Therefore, the Olive Festival in Spain is organized on a special scale. Attention is paid to all areas of life associated with this magical product: gastronomy, economy, health. First of all, everyone can take part in all kinds of tastings – try local gourmet dishes, learn national recipes for dishes with olives, and what is prepared from them.
Also, guests of the festival can get acquainted with the conditions of growing and processing olives, see with their own eyes the process of cold pressing of olive oil and, of course, taste its best varieties. Experts say that tasting olive oil is as delicate and complex as tasting wine, and ancient dishes made from olives and olives deserve a special place in modern cuisine.
In addition, during the days of the festival, you can visit a variety of exhibitions and concerts, performances and conferences, cooking contests and thematic lectures, fascinating master classes from the most famous chefs. Also, within the framework of the festival, an auction fair is held, which attracts restaurateurs and wholesale buyers from all over the world; this is the largest event of this type.
Naturally, everything is not limited only to olives and oil. All guests of the holiday will be able to taste local wines and a huge number of Andalusian dishes. The whole action is accompanied by dancing and music.
Although the program of the festival changes slightly every year, the main event of the “olive” holiday remains unchanged – it is Ruta de la Tapa (Tapas Road – hot and cold Spanish snacks). Spanish has a verb called tapear, which translates to “go to bars, chat with friends, drink wine and eat tapas.” The best restaurants, cafes and bars of the city take part in Ruta de la Tapa. Each establishment has a special three-course mini-menu made from olives or using olive oil. Anyone can taste them. But the most persistent one, who will visit all the tapas establishments in one evening, will receive a prize – 50 liters of selected olive oil and lunch for two in a restaurant that will be recognized as the best “olive” place at this festival.
Another interesting place in Baena related to olives is the Museo del Olivo, located in the city center. It is also worth a visit to have a complete understanding of how olives are grown and processed and to experience the rich history of the olive culture.
The Olive Festival in Spain is not only a bright and festive event, they try to illuminate all aspects of the possible use of olives and olive oil, as well as remind you of the importance this plant has for the whole world and for each person individually. In Spain, people never tire of saying that it is enough to eat a dozen olives before a meal, and then a heart attack and stroke are not threatened. In addition, hot Spaniards are sure that olives are vegetable oysters: with their help, love ardor does not fade away, but flares up with a bright flame.