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Olive Oil

A land as immense and abundant as the Douro is not made of Wine only. In fact, olive oil is an important source of income in the region, and is appreciated not only in Portugal, but also abroad. With a unique flavour and important benefits to your health, olive oil is an essential product in the Portuguese regional cuisine.

Olives on the tree during the end of December | © Melanie AntunesOlives in barrels after being removed from the trees | © Melanie AntunesOlives that fall on the tent after being picked | © Melanie AntunesMan carrying barrels of olives | © Melanie AntunesMan picking olives that fell on the awning | © Melanie Antunes

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The ancient and wide olive groves along the Douro hills and valleys rise above the vineyards in the slopes, and are the source of one of the most precious ingredients in the region. Olive oil is an important ingredient in most dishes in the Douro region, and is used not only in main courses, but also in some desserts.

The olive trees are sovereign in these schistic landscapes, benefiting from the region’s climate, and originating thick, dark and intense flavoured olive oil. Virgin and Extra Virgin olive oil, on the other hand, is more delicate and less acidic. A large portion of the olive oil produced in the region is for private consumption and it is traditional for producers to offer olive oil and other typical delicacies to visiting friends and family.

The olives are harvested in December and January, although the process can be interrupted and delayed due to bad weather conditions, typical of those months.

In order to pick the olives, the farmers will put tarpaulin around the olive tree where the fruit will fall. Then, men climb up the trees and hit the tree branches with a long stick with enough strength to make the olives fall. After that, the olives are put into oak barrels and taken to the “erguedeira”, which is a machine that separates the fruit from the leaves. The olives are then taken to mills where the olive oil is produced in a traditional manner. At the end of this process, the olive oil is ready to be served. The newer the olive oil, the more flavourful it is, even though it can be preserved for long periods of time.

Olive oil is beneficial to your health because it reduces low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol). Because it is monounsaturated fat, when ingested olive oil does not turn into cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, olive oil reduces the formation of free radicals, which accelerate the ageing process and degenerative diseases such as cancer.

For you to get to know the Douro properly, you should try the typical meals. Even though the dishes are served in large quantities, the food is very healthy due to ingredients such as olive oil. You can also get to know the Douro region through its flavours. With the “Rota do Azeite” (the Olive Oil Route), for instance, you will be able to visit twelve of the largest olive oil-producing municipalities in the Douro region.

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