Extra Virgin

Any time from November to early March in Andalucia means it’s time to pick and crush olives. The date for this depends on several factors. The weather for a start, and how it has allowed the olives to grow and mature.



Some people like to pick their olives very early, when they are still smaller and green. This will give a lower yield of olive oil but of a very high quality. Think of those amazing tasting and expensive olive oils you can find in specialist shops. It’s wonderful for eating “raw” – which means in salads or as a dip – but not suitable really for cooking with. It can be hard to find a mill open to deal with the olives so early on on the season, at least it is where we live.




There’s also usually a minimum quantity that you can mill (about 250kg) so it’s not really an option to mill some early and then more later on in the season. At the other end of the calendar you have the folk who pick late when the olives are fat and dark. You’ll get a much higher yield of oil but it will have a much less distinctive taste. A good all rounder but with no particularly distinctive flavour. Fine for eating raw, great for cooking. Much of the oil we all buy in supermarkets will be this type. Round here the olives are sold to the co-operatives and everyone benefits from the profit of the sale of the olives and/or oil.

In the middle are people like us. Many who have enough trees to provide them and their families with oil for the year. The olives are picked when they are green/black. You get a good yield of oil with a wonderful flavour which will become more gentle as the year goes on and whatever is left from the year before becomes your oil for cooking.



Now, I won’t lie to you and say that Big Man and I participate in the picking. Although Big Man has done in the past. Like many others we come to an arrangement with neighbours who don’t have trees or land of their own. We provide the trees and look after them during the year. They pick the olives. We all take them to be milled and then divide the spoils. Perfect!


This year from our 30 trees (although sometimes when we count we get to 29 or 31, we can’t seem to agree) a fantastic 1732 kg of olives were collected. Last year was not a good year, and next year will probably not be as good as this one. That’s the way it goes with olives, up and down. That means about 60kg of olives from each tree and am almost 19% yield for any of you who love numbers like me! And no sprays or pesticides. Rain water and chicken poo are all our olives get to see them through the year.


In the past we’ve headed down to the coast to an old mill which cold stone presses the olives. The old boy who runs it is now winding things down, so unless you’re super organised and have made an appointment weeks in advance, it’s not practical now to use his mill. A shame.


But, nil desperandum. A neighbour’s son and his wife decided 2 years ago to set up a little mill just a few km from us next to our local village. It’s up a very inconvenient wiggly track but the views are amazing! They mostly bought second hand machinery, which I like the thought of, and the very effective little mill serves the locals like us for a few months a year when we want to mill our own olives and enjoy our own oil.


Yesterday was the big day, and the whole process took about 5 hours (one of which was spent fixing a little breakdown). Ever prepared for such an emergency, we had bought beers, soft drinks and tapas so no one minded waiting. We ended up with an amazing 320 litres of fantastic oil to be split 2 ways. Mostly it gets put into 25 litre containers but you can also buy smaller 5 litre ones. We made sure we filled some smaller ones to load into the car for when we head back to England in a couple of weeks.



I wish I could share the flavour and the incredible smell with you, but alas the technology doesn’t exist…yet!

What’s my favourite way to use our oil – very simple, the best breakfast in the world (well, apart from a Full English)!

Pan Con Tomate y Aceite
Pan Con Tomate y Aceite

If you’d like to see how we crushed the oil the “old” way, take a look at this post from a few years back.



59 thoughts on “Extra Virgin

  1. I have never tasted olive oil as good as yours. I think it has a hint of lemon in it. I can imagine the taste of your pan con tomate 🙂
    Someone in Barcelona was saying that this year’s good harvest means that prices will go up – that doesn’t seem to make economic sense, but I believe there’s a nasty olive disease ravaging Italy, so that might explain it. I think the disease was a topic on the Food Programme a few months ago.

    1. Ah thanks MD – hopefully I’ll be able to get some of this new oil to you soon. I think it’s the best we’ve made! I know that prices here to the growers were unacceptably low although this wasn’t refelcted in the supermarkets. It’s a complicated scenario. Butt yes. it’s been a good year for most people!

      1. We’ve got 50 litres of last year’s oil. Still tastes great but obviously very different from the new batch. Big Man was wondering if we should see if anyone in England wants to buy it! I often use olive oil in allioli and mayo, especially if it’s not too strong tasting J

      2. Perhaps there might be an opportunity to do a one off stall at the farmers’ market… The butcher on Theobalds Road might take some – he sold a load of damson ketchup for a friend of mine. If you have a wholesale price in mind I could ask him for you 🙂

      3. Actually your own butcher might be easier than coming to London and Martin the farmer has a farm shop near Canterbury, but you’ll get the best deal if you sell it yourself 🙂

  2. I LOVE olive oil. I came late to the party, but am making up for it now. If I could drink it, I would. You have no idea how much joy and envy your post has engendered in me. I have a single large olive tree and a small one that really should be planted out. My olive tree yields precisely “no” olives each year because the possums are completely addicted to them and pick them half ripe. Much like the rat that is addicted to the annual nicotinia plants that spring up adventitiously, nature is a prize bitch when it comes to sharing. I can lust from afar. My lust is enormous…

    1. I SOOOO wish I could send you some! We have a little oive tree in Bexhill which promisingly looked loaded with little olives but then one day the “big wind” struck (and it was nothing to do with lentils and chick peas) and our olives were no more 😦

      1. I think sometimes nature has other plans for our olives. At least the possums will have lovely thick fur and will speak Spanish as their second language 😉

  3. Chica, this is amazing. I’ve always wondered how the process worked and you’ve really uncovered it for me. There really is something magical about olive trees, and olive oil and the community involved. How incredible that you have this and it must be so cool to taste the difference in the oil from year to year. So impressive. I also love the way you used it here. I could drink olive oil too. I use it in everything. Very cool.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Amanda – starting to see this process a few years back really made me appreciate even more the hard work that goes into producing this wonderful product for us. Just dipping a piece of homemade sourdough into our olive oil is a meal fit for kings!

  4. We need a Willy Wonka style smellovision! How lucky you are to be able to produce your own olive oil. I’m sure it is heavenly – though I think I will stick to my full English as a treat breakfast 😃

  5. Thanks for such an interesting post, Tanya. To spend a day watching the processing of olives is the sort of activity I’d like to do when I travel. Leave the window shopping in the High Street to somebody else.

    1. It really is a great experience – and the smell at the mill is intoxicating. You have to go outside every so often to breathe in the mountain air, it’s that powerful you almost feel overcome by it!!

  6. What a fantastic post! I knew how the oil is processed from the fruit but had no idea you were totally self-sufficient in the home-grown variety! How wonderful and what a harvest! There are more and more olive growers in Australia every year: have bought from a few and what a difference: one surely does not want to go back to the supermarket brands, many of which are supposedly tampered with anyways! What a wonderful bonus in your culinary world! And don’t think you should have any difficulty in selling any left-over product at a British farmers’ market 🙂 !

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Eha – we’re very lucky indeed to have this little patch of olive grove and really appreciate it and what it gives us. When we lived here permanently (and maybe one day we will again) we kept our free range flocks of hens and chickens for eating in the olives and next to the house our veggie garden – so we were pretty much self sufficient J

      1. You are very lucky [perhaps I should say fortunate ’cause you have made your luck!] to have that choice to move or stay . . . quite delightful looking on from the sidelines! The quality of those eggs you could collect and chooks you ate must be very difficult to replicate in the UK.

      2. We are indeed very lucky – and I hope we never take what we have for granted. I don’t think we will….we’re pretty grounded and ordinary folk. We are currently enjoying very free range eggs in Spain and you’re right, they just don’t compare!

  7. I think everyone really liked every article that you post, but this time I am sure this is what particularly because you share a recipe that is very spesian Mrs. Chica 🙂

  8. Minimum of 250kg you say – guess our 2 olives that grew on our tree wouldn’t quite make the quota. 😀
    How absolutely wonderful to be able to have your very own olive oil. I am just a little envious. Tell you what, if we ever get more than 2 olives on our tree, I will let you know.
    Have a beautiful weekend ahead Tanya.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  9. I would be in 7th heaven with even one jug of your lovely oil. How wonderful that you got so much oil this year…that’s great.

  10. Lovely to see such views of your mountain, Tanya! What a place to live 🙂 You sent me scurrying to the kitchen for the last few olives in my jar! Inferior, but still… 🙂

  11. Thanks, Tanya. I had a general idea about the process but this post really did explain things — and from the locals’ viewpoint. I bet that oil of yours tastes fantastic and can only imagine how great that breakfast would be.This post reminds me of Grandpa’s wine making. No, we didn’t have a press but friends did. It was a community affair and people gathered with their grapes at their appointed time. Teenaged boys manned the press while the old timers supervised. Though the products and processes are far different, the tradition of a community coming together and sharing the (smashed) fruits of their labor are the same. It’s lacking in my life now but it’s reassuring to see that the traditions still exist and I know you’re not one to take it for granted.

    1. Oh I so understand what you’re saying John. This year is the first year my mum and dad didn’t make wine. He decided that now he’s reached 80, it’s time to retire the wine making equipment L We started crushing with wellies (rain boots) which had been sterilised, then moved on to a hand cranked wine crusher then all the neighbours who also used to make wine clubbed together and bought an electric crusher! I think around the world though there are younger folk reviving the old traditions – three cheers for them I say!

  12. I wish I could taste it!!! Thanks for the informative post. I have always wondered who the first person was to take a humble olive from a tree and figure out how to make edible olives and olive oil. So fascinating to me!!!

  13. Hmmmm ……. fresh taste and a lot of vitamin C, very good for health tubuh.khususnya people who want to be thin and being a diet program.

      1. Raden, olive oil is good for people who have high cholesterol level, it helps regulate cholesterol: lower LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and raises HDL cholesterol (good one). Olive oil is part of the Mediterranean diet, recommended for people with cardiovascular disease.

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