Introduced and re-introduced over the centuries, olive cultivation is at the heart of Moroccan cuisine and culture.
Ever seen a table of different types of olives packed so tightly in neat tapering piles? If not, you need to visit the souks of Morocco where succulent olives are available from souks all over the country.
Morocco is the second largest producer of table olives and the sixth of olive oil. The country’s olive main regions for olive production are Marrakesh, Casablanca, Meknes and Fez. Marrakesh specialises in table olives while Meknes and Fez produce more olive oil. High-quality, export-oriented processors, characterise the olive oil production. Many of these high-quality export processors have won multiple awards at international competitions for their unique olive oil.
In Morocco, olives are used as appetisers and served with herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and oregano while the crushed olives are used as to produce fuel and for making “Saboun El Baldi”. Morocco is a serious contender when it comes to the exporting of olives to the world market.
The olive’s history in Morocco originates from Greek colonisers on Sicily. The colonisers brought the olive to the island and took trees across onto the mainland. Eventually, as trade routes developed, the olive was brought west.
At Volubilis in Morocco, ancient olive press’s operate by applying pressure to olive paste to separate the liquid oil and vegetation water from the solid material.
This basic method is still widely used today, and it is still a sound way of producing high-quality olive oil if adequate precautions are taken.
First, the olives are ground into an olive paste using large millstones at an oil mill. The olive paste stays under the stones for 30‑40 minutes. This is meant to achieve the following:
Ensure that olives are well ground
Allow enough time for the olive drops to join to form the largest droplets of oil
Allow the fruit enzyme to produce some of the oil aromas and taste
Olive oil mills very rarely used a modern crushing method with a traditional press. After grinding, the olive paste is spread on fibre discs, which are stacked on top of each other, then placed into the press. Traditionally the discs were made of hemp or coconut fibre, but in modern times they are made of synthetic fibres which are easier to clean and maintain.
The expression to “extend an olive branch” means an offer of peace or reconciliation.