Olive oil in Sicily
Asked by a passing Olympian God about the essentials of life, an ancient Greek pointed to an olive tree: “It provides us with shade from the hot summer sun, wood for warm winter fires, nourishing fruit, and oil for cooking and lighting.” A gift from Athena to the town that took her name, the olive tree’s multifarious qualities remain legendary, nowhere more so than in Sicily!
Greek settlers imported their beloved olive trees to Sicily in the 5th century BC and olive oil has been produced on the island ever since…
A few facts:
– Sicily produces about 10% of Italy’s olive oil
– there are 6 DOP (Protected Designation of Origin – similar to DOC for wines) olive oil producing areas of Sicily, more than any other region of Italy: Val di Mazara DOP, Valdemone DOP, Valle del Belice DOP, Valli Trapanesi DOP, Monte Etna DOP and Monti Iblei DOP
– the most common varieties of olives for oil production are Biancolilla, Castiglione, Carolea and Nocellara
Olive oil production
The olive harvest in Sicily takes place between the middle of September and the end of November, depending on the altitude at which the olives are grown – there is a considerable difference between Mount Etna and the Val di Mazara! Most important producers harvest the olives by hand and there is a growing number of organic oils being produced on the island.
Olive oil tasting
If you are visiting Sicily during the olive harvest, be sure to head for an oil mill to sample (and buy) some freshly pressed, deliciously fruity and aromatic olive oil!
If you’re staying in one of our villas (several of which produce their own olive oil) let us know and we’ll set up a tasting for you.
And if you fancy doing a “degustazione” on your own, one of the most satisfying ways is to dribble some olive oil on a thin slice of fresh white bread. Add a tiny pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper and what is ostensibly a “tasting” will transform itself into a memorable meal!