Warning message

The service having id "pinterest" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.

Back to blogs

  • Ali-Po Best carpet and upholstery cleaning in the Algarve
  • Aimcliff Properties Algarve

RationalFX 225x220

Adsense 225x225 for Blogs

Olives and the Algarve

by Sun’s Dragon   

Considering the hot summers, mild winters and the small rainfall that we get in the Algarve, it’s a wonder we see so many wild flowers and fruit trees. But we do! Just go for a ramble in the spring and see how much colour there is in the hills, it’s a truly amazing sight to behold.

It’s the dry conditions, the temperate climate and the nature of the soil here that olive trees thrive on and their produce makes for a large export market for Portugal.

Olives Growing Algarve

The impressive olive tree is revered and respected and tales of its powers have grown over the thousands of years of its known existence.

The Legends

Olive Tree Algarve

  • Athena, Goddess of Wisdom thrust her spear into the ground, from which an olive tree grew – The Tree of Wisdom.
  • A dove came to the Ark, after the deluge, bearing an olive twig – The Tree of Hope.
  • The ancient Greeks poured olive oil onto bread as an offering to newlyweds. – The Tree of Fertility.
  • The Celts devoted the 27th September to the olive, as this is the one time of each year that day and night are of equal times. – The Tree of Balance.
  • Mediterranean folklore tells us that as each child is born, so an olive tree is planted. As the child grows, so does the tree; producing flowers, olives and oil for the whole family – The family Tree
  • A dove bearing an olive twig has become the international sign for Peace


Olives Harvest Algarve Portugal

Quite apart from the wild olive trees that are everywhere in the Algarve (many are more than a thousand years old), we have huge olive groves that are cultivated and tended. The olive is a fascinating fruit whether you love or hate it (I hate the taste) and the oil it produces is so healthy (I love it).

The trees are overflowing with fruit by the end of August but the canny farmers wait as long as they can for the first rains, which then plump up the fruit a treat. Only then do they go “olive picking”. Lower branches can be handpicked, after which out come the plastic sheets that are laid under each tree. Long poles are brought into use and the olives are shaken from the higher branches onto the sheets below.

Once harvested there are two choices; take them to the olive press to make oil or take them to the canning factory.

Extracting oil

As a rule of thumb, five kilos of olives makes a litre of oil, but this depends on the rainfall and the quality of the oil (virgin or extra virgin).

Olive Oil Algarve portugal

In the mountains of Monchique lies the oldest, classical olive press still in use. It never advertises and there are no signposts, not even on the doors of the press, only the locals know of it and outsiders have to ask the way. Two giant upright stones slowly grind the cleaned olives to a paste from which the oil is pressed out and the filtering process begins.

On the other hand, there is a huge olive grove in Moncarapacho where the olives are picked by hand, ground to a paste by an ancient granite mill, from whence the oil is extracted by super modern equipment. This press uses four types of olives for their bottling, Maçanilha, Cobrançosa, Verdeal and Picual.

The more the oil is filtered the more virgin it is. Whatever method is used, there’s nothing more satisfying than harvesting, pressing and producing your own olive oil, or buying it fresh from the press.


Two years ago, my son-in-law (who never does anything by half) picked a huge amount of olives from his own garden and set about the long process of preserving them. Having only just moved to the Algarve, he enthusiastically asked every local he could find for advice on the best way to approach the process and this is what he came up with:

Each olive was handpicked so as not to bruise it, each olive was inspected for worm holes and discarded if not perfect and the remainder received a gentle slit on both sides. The olives were then washed thoroughly in cold water and covered in brine, which was changed every week for two months!

Marinated Oils Algarve Portugal

He generously gave our friend, Debbie, a bucketful of olives (I don’t think he had enough jars) and the two of them set about bottling them in their own way.

His method was to put a slice of lemon into the bottom of each jar, add olives, bay leaf, oregano and a few with piripiri chillies, he then covered them in 10% brine and added a little olive oil on top to “keep out the bugs”. He even had a “make your own jar” party, where friends added their own herbs and kept their jar of olives!

Debbie has since told us that his turned out better than hers and she’s been bottling them for years. A question of taste I guess.

Purely for medicinal purposes

The most important ingredient in olive leaves is Oleuropein, which is claimed to strengthen the immune system. However, it’s very bitter and the leaves are not used during the making of oil.

The olive tree produces Oleuropein to protect itself from the invasion of microorganisms and insects. It’s a very effective antioxidant and it has anti-inflammatory qualities.

Olives and their oil are rich in vitamin E, iron, copper, dietary fibre and the good monounsaturated fats. Perhaps this is why olives are counted as one of the healthiest foods you can eat!

Olive tea

Pick fresh leaves and boil them in water (not too long). Let the leaves steep and then sieve them. Pour the tea and add sugar or honey; this ensures energy and the relief of stress. The recommended amount to drink of this special tisane is one cup, morning, noon and night for adults, morning and night for students and mornings only for children. It can also act as a diuretic so never take more than this unless you have excess liquid in your system.

The wood of the olive tree

Obviously when a tree can still produce fruit after a thousand years, the wood is scarce and therefore valuable. When it does come onto the market it’s usually used to make high end furniture as it is a hard wood with a beautiful grain. Smaller pieces are highly sought after by wood turners who will use it to make beautiful art pieces; rather like the wood from the Alfarroba (carob tree).

Olive Wood Algarve Portugal

If the dead wood is not suitable for joinery or wood turning then it makes superb firewood and, because of the density of the wood, produces a great heat.

Olive trees originated in the Mediterranean countries and spread from there; they now grow in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. As far back as three thousand years BC the olives were cultivated and sold in Syria, Israel and Crete. They are often mentioned in Greek mythology, Roman history, the Christian bible and the Quran.

One thing I do know, the Algarveans cherish their olive trees which provide them with not only a delicious staple fruit and oil but, for many, their very living. Every restaurant in Portugal will serve you a plate of olives as an appetiser before a meal is even ordered. The oil is used in their cooking as well as a dressing for salads. In fact, life in the Algarve without olive trees is unimaginable.


Brought to you by Meravista – the place where smart people search for Algarve property for sale.

Meravista Property Search Algarve Portugal