Olive oil is a food product extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. Planted in full heat. It is an ancient food, a classic of contemporary cuisine, regular in the Mediterranean diet and present in most kitchens nowadays. In addition to the health benefits, olive oil adds a peculiar flavor and aroma to food.
The Mediterranean region is currently responsible for 95% of the world's olive oil production, favored by its climatic conditions, favorable to the cultivation of olive trees, with plenty of sun and dry weather.
History of Olive Oil in Portugal
Olive oil was one of the first products exported by Portugal.
In Portugal, the reference to the olive tree is very old. The Visigothic Code, in the laws to protect agriculture, prescribed a fine of five sous for anyone who uprooted another's olive tree, paying only three sous for another tree.
Some authors claim that the greatest development of this culture takes place in the provinces where the reconquest came later. The charters of the Moors of Lisbon, Almada, Palmela and Alcácer do Sal, given by D. Afonso Henriques in 1170, and later that of the Algarve Moors (1269), and Évora (1273), expressly refer to this olive tree culture.
As far as Beira Baixa is concerned, there is only one mention of the «recent olive tree planting on a covered ground, inside the town of Covilhã in 1359». From the medieval toll tables (rights), we can conclude which are the main types of local trade: salt, oil, bread, wine, live animals and salted or fresh fish. From the 14th century there are reports of two municipalities where the olive tree was cultivated: Évora and Coimbra. In the latter, the king grants the same privileges as in Lisbon, that is, “they could carry the oil in the river and mouth of the Mondego. outside the Kingdom as well as inside”.
At the time of the Discoveries in the century. XV and XVI, olive oil and wine continue to be part of the list of exported products. As in the 14th century, Coimbra, Évora and its terms were the regions of greatest production in the 15th century. In 1555, the consumption of oil underwent a great increase, as it began to be used frequently in lighting. In this century, the product was sold within the kingdom and exported to markets in Northern Europe and overseas, especially to India. In the time of Philippine rule, the “black market”, hoarding and speculation cost the product; thus, the drop in exports is understood, despite Manuel de Sousa Faria having praised its quality and abundance, stating that exports continued to Flanders, Germany, Castile-a-Velha, León Province, Galicia, India and Brazil.
In the 18th century Coimbra was no longer the main producing center and the best quality olive oil was that of Santarém. The monopoly of mills, held by the grantees and masters of the Orders, was the cause of several complaints regarding the drop in production. However, still in the 19th century, and despite the fact that the manufacturing processes remained rudimentary, Portuguese olive oil was awarded at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.
In the last decades before accession, Portugal had been decreasing its olive oil production and the annual fluctuations were very large (for example, in 1982 79 510 tonnes were produced and in 1983 only 8800, according to FAO data). In 1986, at the time of accession to the EEC, Portugal had 340,000 hectares of olive groves, spread throughout the country, although mostly concentrated in the Alentejo, with 144,632 ha; the agrarian regions of Trás-os-Montes, Beira Interior and Ribatejo e Oeste also had significant, similar surfaces and about a third of Alentejo.