Why Do We Find Fruit and Herbs in Aroma of Olive Oil?

One of the signs of real olive oil is the presence of natural flavours of various vegetables, fruits and herbs. It can be bell pepper, lemon, artichokes, apples, or combinations of wild herbs and flowers such as cloves, oregano, or lavender.

For example, olive oil Aegaea from the Greek island of Lesvos smells like rosemary, fennel and oregano, while tasting Spanish olive oil Picual, you will encounter distinct flavour of tomato, fig and freshly cut grass. 

The taste and aroma of olive oil is magic. It is a unique combination of different components: soil, climate, harvest time and… 

Show Me Your Friends and I’ll Tell You Who You Are

Yes, there is something more: it matters who the neighbours of the olive tree are.
So magic gives way to quite understandable scientific facts.

The root system of trees forms so-called mycorrhizal network, rich in microorganisms, bacteria and fungi found in the soil.

The roots supply the trees with vital minerals, moisture, carbon dioxide and are connected with the roots of related trees in a kind of mutual assistance relationship. These relationships are primarily built on the transfer of nutrients from one plant to another. 

For example, the roots of an olive tree spread out and is wide but not deep. So it cannot reach some of the minerals that lie deep enough underground.
This means that some plants with nitrogen-fixing roots (acacia, clover, soybeans, lucerne, lupins, peanuts) can become good neighbours of the olive tree.

In addition to the exchange of nutrients, plants actively exchange biochemical and electrical signals with other participants in the network (and not only with neighbors) and can change their behavior based on these signals.

Mycorrhizal networks are extremely important for the health of trees in times of danger. Certain types of microorganisms, fungi, bacteria, contribute to the resistance of trees to certain environmental factors, such as predators, toxins, pathogenic microbes. 

Best Friends of Olive Tree

Usually the interaction of olive trees with other trees, shrubs and herbs develops naturally, organically and without human intervention.
Such olive trees have been growing for centuries in remote and hard-to-reach places, such as the hilly areas of the island of Lesvos in Greece. 

Unfortunately, in plants (as in humans), partnerships are not always mutually beneficial. Sometimes this is not a partnership, but a struggle for resources or simply parasitism, which can lead to severe illness or the rapid death of some plants.

In some cases, such a confrontation can continue for a long time without killing either side. However, it still reduces the quality and life expectancy of trees, and also affects the yield and quality of fruits.

Therefore, many modern olive groves are originally designed so that olive trees grow only next to certain varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

These plants are chosen by the farmer, and not at all based on their taste preferences. Scientific criteria work here: it is important to plant those plants with which the partnership will benefit the olive trees and will not harm the neighbours themselves.

Here is a short list of some plants that are friends with the olive tree: almond, walnut, peas, marjoram, mint, sage, savory, tarragon, oregano, thyme, lavender, petunias, lemon balm, rosemary, fennel, chia…

How do they help the olive tree? Differently. Some deliver scarce minerals, others repel harmful insects. There are also plants that attract predatory insects (wasps, hornets) that kill pests.

All these neighbours give the olive tree fruits their woody, grassy, fruity, herbal or floral taste and aroma. And this is exactly what creates a vivid and unforgettable impression of our first meeting with olive oil from fresh olives of the new harvest. Every year, from October to December we wait for new combinations of natural olive oil flavours.

P.S. Yes, again 🙂 Don’t look for any fresh natural aroma of olive oil in supermarket-bought liquid fat, it is killed by hexane (chemical solvent) used in large industrial oil mills. Buy and consume only real farm olive oil, and stay healthy! 

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