This week… olives, growing, buying and cooking

There are a few basics in the kitchen that are really not worth stinting on. Single-estate coffee, honey and olive oil being in the top ten. The cost may be a little higher but a little goes a long way and quality over quantity is the rule. This week a common thread in my inbox has been olives, growing them and eating these delectable little fruits.

One of the first fascinating facts about olive trees is the remarkable age they are able to grow to and especially compared to mere human beings. It’s awesome.

Forget the ‘raindrops on kittens’… here’s a few of my favourite things related to olive oil.

Heritage trees

The Olivera de Can Det tree named the “Best Momumental Olive Tree” in Spain.

I have loved trees since I was a tomboy child and climbing trees was a regular pastime. As regular readers of will know, I walk a lot in the countryside and although I no longer climb trees, despite being sorely tempted just for the fun of it, trees feature large. I spent a morning forest bathing recently which I found enormously relaxing and yet energising.

Olive trees grow to the most delightfully knotty shapes and evoke illustrations by the great Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). I almost expect to discover fairies living beneath their gnarled limbs.

An olive tree estimated at over 1,100 years old has been awarded Spain’s national prize of the “Best Momumental Olive Tree”. The Can Det olive tree is not only a truly remarkable age and size but it has been lovingly cared for by its owners, the Deya Canals family. Amazingly, it’s believed the tree was planted by the Muslims in the 9th century. The tree trunk measures more than 6.5 metres and today produces around 120 kg of olives per year. Olives have been cultivated in the Sóller Valley in the north of the island since they were introduced by the Phoenicians and Greeks.


The Deya Canals olive groves are open to visitors. Here the family have produced ecological oilve oil since 1561 using traditional methods to handpick the olives and using a fully working traditional Mallorcan ‘tafona’ press.

Tip: Take the heritage Tren de Sóller from Palma. The little wooden carriages trundle through the magnificent Mallorcan countryside and it makes a wonderful day out by #slowtravel.

“Happiness is…..finding two olives in your martini when you’re hungry.” Johnny Carson.

Olive leaf tea

Belmond’s “Flor d’Oli” infusion made from hand-picked olive leaves.

This week I heard about a new blend of ‘tea’ incorporating olive leaf. The leaf of the olive is reputed to have many health benefits including reducing inflammation in the body and boosting the immune system. “Flor d’Oli” has been created by Katja Woehr of “2Alquemistas” in Mallorca and is made from hand-picked olive leaves from The Belmond La Residencia Hotel estate, located in the picturesque village of Deia. The all-organic leaf infusion incorporates a blend of rose petals, lavender and camomile. I hope to try a sample of the new tea and I’ll report back. Flor d’Oli infusion, price 19.50€ (70gm).

Tip: A favourite infusion of mine is a camomile, rose petals and lavender mix from Woodland Herbs, a herb specialist based in Glasgow.

Explore the olive groves

Olive oil is one of many food products worldwide subject to counterfeiting and it’s important to ensure the origin is authentic. Mallorca has had its own “Denomination of Origin” status since 2002 in accordance with the EEU regulations. Oil production on the island is regulated by The D’Oli de Mallorca. The organisation has launched four walking routes, ranging from 2km to almost 5km, leading through the Sierra Tramuntana scenery where thousands of olive trees are planted on the ancient dry stone wall terraces with two routes in the Sóller area.

Tip: When you’re buying olive oil from any country look for the unique DO seal that guarantees its quality. I found a delightful cold pressed oil at Aldi grown from olives in Puglia in Southern Italy and certified by the P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin).

“…all my life I’ve been terrible at remembering people’s names. I once introduced a friend of mine as Martini. Her name was actually Olive”. Tallulah Bankhead.

Olive oil from the Languedoc

L to R: The Chateau L’Hospitalet; the estate olive oil used in the kitchen at the restaurant.

Another good source of genuine oil (and honey, another product on the ‘at risk’ list) is a vineyard. While staying at the Hôtel du Château l’Hospitalet in the Languedoc wine-growing region we dined in the restaurant one evening. On the table was a bottle of the most lovely dark, fruity home-produced olive oil and I hopefully enquired whether it was possible to purchase a bottle, or two. Sadly that was not the case as the oil is produced solely for use in the kitchen. Another excellent reason though to dine at the Chateau if you find yourself in the area.

Tip: Many vineyards have their own bee hives as these little furry insects help to pollinate the vines, and the Chateau L’Hospitalet boutique stocks jars of their unique honey. If you’re based in the UK try a single-estate, sustainabily produced honey closer to home from Mêl Gwenyn Gruffydd and available online.

A delicious summer picnic under the ancient olive trees at Mas Neuf, Vignobles JeanJean.

The courtyard at Mas Neuf, located in the Massif de la Gardiole betwen the Mediterranean and the marshes in southern France is a peaceful space in which to relax, savour exquisite wines and enjoy good food. One of the homes of the elegant JeanJean wines, the chateau features rooms available to book for business groups and for weddings. It’s worth taking a look if you’d like to stay at a wine chateau in a similar group to learn more about wine and enjoy the good life. As it isn’t classed as a hotel there isn’t a dining room. When we stayed as part of a press trip, it was the height of summer and we spent the evening in the courtyard dining on a beautiful picnic under the four mature olive trees. Mas Neuf is located near to Montpelier airport for easy access.

Mas Neuf. L to R: dressed salads on the picnic table; one of four mature olive trees.

Summer dishes

Olive oil works its magic in cooking all year-round but summer dishes especially lend themselves to a good glug during cooking, or as a dressing on a finished dish. Or drizzle over artisan bread as they do in Spain. Clockwise from top left: fresh mussels cooked and eaten on the quayside; a scallop salad picnic lunch enjoyed in a chateau garden; roasted ripe home-grown tomatoes with olive oil pesto and garlicky mushrooms; and courgette farcie, dining at Chateau L’Hospitalet.

That’s all for this week. Share your tips and discoveries for olive oil in the comments or get in touch via the contacts page if you have a product you would like reviewed on Stay safe and well wherever you are in the world.

As always please check the for the latest on domestic and international travel guidelines. It’s also a good idea to check individual web sites for the latest of opening times and safety requirements.

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