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Olive harvest time

Liquid gold

picking olives

Did you know that there are over 350,000 olive trees on Mallorca? It's an incredible number, and all over the island people are busy harvesting the fruit in little canvas bags and ready to be made into delicious olive oil and other products.

Like wine, there are different varieties of fruit which have different flavours when made into oil, and again like wine, the flavour is affected by the soil, the climate, and the geographical position of the trees.

Here in Mallorca there is just one native variety of olive, the Mallorquina, which has flourished here for thousands of years and the majority of them – around 70,000 trees – grow in the Sierra Tramuntana. The oil that they produce has its own DOP (a protected origin name, just like wine regions) called Oliva de Mallorca.

The members of this DOP are increasing all the time and this year they are predicting an increased production of oil despite the yield of olives per tree decreasing because of the weather. Incredibly, to produce oil to this standard, the olives must come from trees which are over 90 years old and this year around 80 tons will be harvested.

Notwithstanding the importance of the olives as a cash crop and the economic backbone of many people's lives, the trees have also shaped the landscape of the Sierra Tramuntana – a World Heritage site – area.

Because of the conditions needed to cultivate them for optimum yield and flavour the trees are arranged in terraces supported by dry stone walls which not only looks spectacularly picturesque winding along the mountainsides but also aids the efficient irrigation of the crop. The terraces are also oriented to the south to obtain maximum sunshine hours and minimum cold winds from the north in winter.

So, if you've spent a few days in the Sierra admiring the scenery, why not pick up a bottle of delicious olive oil to take home as a souvenir? The airport has quite a good selection of locally produced oil if you don't have room in your suitcase.