Pillar of Provençal gastronomy,
Archaeological research has shown that wild olive trees were present in the Mediterranean basin more than 60,000 years ago.
Roman colonization settled in his province a true olive growing. Order was given to the legions to plant olive trees. The settlers only had to take over. But throughout the Middle Ages, olive oil will be little used, except Friday and Saturday, days of fasting, and Lent to fry the fish.
It is thanks to the conquest of new maritime outlets that Marseille’s soap factories took a decisive place on the Mediterranean market. The repercussion in Provence was important since, in less than a century, olive groves multiplied to meet demand.
The culmination of olive growing in Provence took place in the 18th century.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, olive picking was done by gaulage in eastern Provence where the trees are higher.
The industrial revolution had its repercussions in agriculture. It brought more and more mechanization and the tools of oil mills became more and more cumbersome and expensive. In the nineteenth century, there were few small owners who could equip themselves. They preferred to opt for bringing their harvest to the nearest mill. The only exceptions were in the areas of major crops (Massif des Maures, Aix-en-Provence and Alpilles).
During the Second World War, the shortage of fat revived the production of olive oil. Olive oil is then subject to strong competition from vegetable oils developed and marketed by trusts in the agri-food industry. Its consumption dropped significantly, firstly because of its relatively high price, then by a lack of knowledge of the product and finally by extensive advertising campaigns by the trusts to impose their fat.
Rustic tree, the olive tree fears above all moisture. What made it implant in Provence in poor and dry grounds. It is therefore most often grown in terraces or terraces, held by dry stone retaining walls or on scrubland land.
There are 5 olive oil appellations in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region which are:
PDO olive oil from Provence.
PDO olive oil from Haute Provence.
PDO olive oil from Aix en Provence.