Author: Sandy Deboer of spaingourmetcanada.com
Located on the north-eastern corner of Andalucia, the province of Jaen is one of the largest olive oil producing regions in the world. Nicknamed the “Sea of Olives” visitors experience colours of green and golden tones highlighting the mountains and hills as far as the eye can see.
This area hosts a unique eco system and an olive grove that carries the historic Denomination of Origin known as “Sierra de Segura”. As its name suggests, this olive grove is located high in the mountains, above on steep alpine areas. A mix of pine trees also live within the mountain groves forests, giving the olives in this area a greenish tone.
At 40,000 hectares, the Sierra de Segura contains the largest forest of mountain olive trees in the world, with some growing more than 2900 feet high in altitude. The soil is tough and rocky with rainfall averages higher here than in other parts of the region.
Steep, unstable land with hot days, and very cool nights can make harvesting difficult; however, the result of this special ecosystem is what same may call liquid gold. The characteristic of the olive variety Picual, is strong and stable with an intense smell and flavor.
You’ll know you’re eating this pure mountain olive oils by it’s signature peppery sting in the back of your throat. The belief is, the greater the sting the better the oil. It’s the oils high oleic acid profile that helps it remain stable when exposed to high heat and oxidation.
Nestled in nature, much of the area is a cherished natural park (In Spanish: Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas) and remains so to protect the many important bird species who call it home. Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, it is the largest protected area in Spain. With landscape rich in flora and fauna, there are many special sights to see.
Although often over looked by tourists, the area is rich in culture, heritage, and mouth watering culinary experiences. When traveling to another country, be sure to bring a translated restaurant card with you to inform local chef’s of your Gluten Free needs. Sites like celiactravel.com are one of many who offer free online resources to ensure you’re prepared. Tip: download a translated restaurant card before flying out on your next great adventure, and keep it handy for when hunger strikes.