On my last day in Algarve, I decided to learn about Portuguese olive oil (thank you Frank from Farmhouse of the Palms for the tip). I knew little about the process 'from tree to bottle'. First thing I've learned: the olive tree isn't actually a tree, it's a bush. So every olive tree is made by us humans, otherwise we'd have wild bushes everywhere.
Monterosa are artisan producers of olive oil in the Eastern Algarve. It all began in 1969 when Detlev von Rosen moved from Sweden to Portugal in order to produce Iceberg Salad, Tomatoes and Dill during the winter months for the northern European markets. The production of olive oil came by chance. The olive tree, which needs little irrigation, substituted an orange grove, as a consequence of several dry years. In 2000 Monterosa challenged themselves, to produce a premium olive oil in Algarve.
Antonio, our guide, welcomed me and my mum at Quinta das Oliveiras where the olive grove is located. He told us that the land is about 20 soccer fields big and that this is actually a small area. Other production companies are about 100 and more 'soccer fields' big. At Monterosa, they produce olive oil in a biodynamic process. Most of the work is Donne manually and they're very accurate about recycling and an environmental friendly production. The only thing leaving the farm is actually the bottle with olive oil. They use the remaining olive paste as compost and nourish the ground around the trees with it. Broken benches are not burned but spread out on the ground to get a high quality soil. This is a very normal process in nature and Monterosa supports it.
Olive trees fascinate me because they're with us for such a long time. Some trees at Monterosa are over 2000 years old. An olive oil tree turns 'adult' with about 20 years. We’ve learned furthermore that the first olive trees were found about 4000 before Christ in Mesopotamien (Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon today). The olive trees at Monterosa are sprayed with a mixture of clay and water to protect them from flies and other damaging insects. Clay is a natural product. No pesticides are used at Monterosa. Flies are looking for the green color in nature and with the clay the trees look white to them. Furthermore, the clay will burn their feet if they happen to land on a leaf.
We’re also very impressed by the way the olives are picked. Normally, the trees are harvest with a machine which grabs the tree trunk and shakes it strongly. This damages the tree. Years ago, people hit the tree with wooden sticks to make the olives fall down. But this procedure also harms the trees. At Monterosa, they use a more 'tree-friendly' way to pick the olives. This is how they do it:
A net is placed under the olive tree.
The first olives are picked by hand.
The olive benches are combed with a specific instrument.
An electric instrument is placed in between the benches and it gently shakes them so the olives can fall down.
The olives in the net are collected and carefully selected for the pressing.
This procedure takes about two months until all the olives are picked. The conventional harvesting only takes one week. The Monterosa farm does not want to harm the trees and opts for a slower procedure.
We could go on and on writing about what we’ve learned. But we don’t want Antonio to loose his job (smile). So, if you happen to be in Algarve soon, do us a favor and visit Monterosa. At the end of the tour, Antonio explains you how to taste olive oil and you have the chance to taste their’s. Over all, it was a lovely experience because you learn about our beautiful planet earth and how we should take good care of it.
Thank you Monterosa for keeping olive oil at its best and for the very informative tour!
More informations: www.monterosa-oliveoil.com
Olives ready for the press
Olives with clay
Olive tree with more than 2000 years
Monterosa soil covered with olive tree benches
The beautiful farmhouse