It was so much fun to return to the Deortegas olive farm in Yecla, Spain. Rafaela and Marcelo Ortegas own the farm that has been in the family for many generations. Encarna is their amazing Manager.
Rafaela and Encarna welcomed me warmly when I arrived in Yecla. Marcelo was busy in the fields so I wasn’t able to see him until later in the day.
Yecla is a small town in southeastern Spain, a bit off the beaten track. However, it is growing in popularity because it is on a wine route. Yecla has its own D.O. for wine. One of the wines the area is famous for is monastrell, a red wine that I highly recommend!
Under a bright blue morning sky, we drove out to the olive groves. Each type of olive grows in a separate field. The Ortegas have groves of arbequina, cornicabra and picual olive trees. All of the fields are organic and sustainably farmed.
They also showed me their newest field. They have expanded with another olive, the hojiblanca olive. The trees are young and are just beginning to grow enough olives that can be pressed into oil. So yes, in the future, I will also be offering the Deortegas organic hojiblanca extra virgin olive oil. I was able to get a small sample to taste and it is a winner. Another great olive oil!
Rafaela is showing me some of the arbequina olives she just plucked from the tree. Arbequina olives are one of the smaller olives.
It is never a casual stroll through the olive groves. As we walked in this grove, Rafaela and Encarna stopped to inspect the roots of this olive tree.
The Deortegas olive groves are completely natural and organic. No pesticides, no herbicides. To control the olive fruit fly, they hang these bottles on all the trees which are all natural, to catch the flies.
They do not even use any commercial fertilizer. The only fertilizer they use are leftovers from the olive oil making process, and prunings from the tree. Indeed, these natural fertilizers are the best for the trees, the olives and the land.
The best kind of organic.
After returning from the fields, Rafaela and Encarna took me to their tasting room where they offer samples of their olive oil.
This time, they added a fun challenge - one of the tasting cups was actually a fake EVOO. The pressure was on, could I figure out which one? I took a blue glass cup, and swirled the olive oil in the cup, keeping the lid on. Removing, the lid, I smelled the aroma from the cup. I did the same with all four cups. Just from the aroma I was able to determine which one was the fake. But this was relatively easy given that I was comparing a fake to the Deortegas olive oils which are some of the best in the world!
When Marcelo came in from the fields, he explained more about the dry farming concept that their farm uses. Dry farming is a traditional Mediterranean method of growing certain crops like olives, grapes, almonds, etc. Another term for this is dry irrigation. It means there is no irrigation except for rain. It is so completely natural and sustainable!
You can see the long spacing between trees which enables the roots to have room to reach for more nutrients in the soil as well as water deep in the ground. At the same time, there is room for the sun to reach all of the olives which is important for nutrients to develop in the olives.
The reality is that with no irrigation and relying only on rain, it can mean less oil per olive tree so the yield can be lower for the farmer. However the person who really wins is the consumer.
Dry farming results in more nutrients in the olives. Plant chemicals tend to grow in number because they are protecting the plant. The increased plant chemicals translate into greater phytonutrients in the olive oil. In other words, the consumer is getting an olive oil that is full of phytonutrients; ie, healthy nutrients.
Dry farming leads to a rich, intense flavor. This is one of the reasons why the Deortegas olive oil has such an amazing taste. It's so cool that such an ecologically sustainable farming method also produces this rich and fresh flavor!
The Deortegas extra virgin olive oil is a premium oil that wins awards around the world. As you can see, the Ortegas put great effort into growing and harvesting organic olives to make a great olive oil.