Oil in Sicily
Olive oil is a main ingredient of the Mediterranean diet, it enriches any recipe, adds flavour to dishes, seasons vegetables and can replace butter in the making of delicious desserts. It is the product of the traditional Italian cuisine that is always on our tables.
The Greeks introduced the olive tree to Sicily together with the techniques for growing and extracting oil. The first oil mills were built in the Middle Ages by the Benedictine and Cistercian monks.
The cultivation of the olive tree and the use of oil in Sicily expanded during Spanish rule. Oil became a key element in the history of Sicilian agriculture and trade.
Nowadays, olive cultivation is widespread in almost the whole Sicily. Thanks to the excellent climatic conditions and the natural characteristics of the land, the island has some excellent varieties of oil, which have been awarded the coveted PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) label. The Designations of Origin granted to Sicilian extra virgin olive oil are: the PDO ‘Monti Iblei’, the PDO ‘Valli Trapanesi’, the PDO ‘Val di Mazara’, the PDO ‘Monte Etna’, the PDO ‘Valle del Belice’ and the PDO ‘Valdemone’.
Monti Iblei Dop Extra Virgin Olive Oil is characterised by a fruity and scented taste with a slight spicy hint. It is produced in the provinces of Siracusa, Ragusa and Catania, where olive varieties such as Moresca, Tonda Iblea and Nocellara Etnea or Verdese are grown. The product specification identifies eight additional geographical mentions: “Monte Lauro“, “Val d’Anapo“, “Val Tellaro“, “Frigintini“, “Gulfi“, “Valle dell’Irminio“, “Calatino“, “Trigona-Pancali“.
The Valli Trapanesi Dop extra virgin olive oil is produced in the province of Trapani, in the areas of Alcamo, Buseto Palizzolo, Calatafimi, Castellammare del Golfo, Custonaci, Erice, Marsala, Mazara del Vallo, Paceco, Petrosino, Poggioreale, Salemi, San Vito lo Capo, Trapani, Valderice and Vita. The Valli Trapanesi Dop extra virgin olive oil has an intense green colour with golden reflections, a characteristic fruity fragrance with strong balsamic notes, hints of tomato and officinal herbs; bitterness and spiciness are perfectly balanced. The most common varieties are Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice.
The Phoenicians began cultivating olives in eastern Sicily, followed by the Greeks, who colonised the area around Catania. Monte Etna Dop Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced amidst fascinating myths and legends and places shaped by volcanic activity in the land that surrounds Mount Etna. Monte Etna Dop Extra Virgin Olive Oil is mainly made from the following varieties of olives: Nocellara Etnea and Moresca, Tonda Iblea, Ogliarola Messina, Biancolilla and Brandofino. It is produced in several municipalities in the provinces of Catania, Enna and Messina.
The origin of Valle del Belice PDO Extra Virgin Olive Oil dates back to the foundation of Selinunte, an ancient colony of the Magna Graecia. The Selinuntines planted and cultivated olive trees in the inland valleys around the Belice and Modione rivers. Today, the cultivation area stretches across the municipalities of Castelvetrano, Partanna, Salaparuta, Santa Ninfa and Poggioreale (all in the province of Trapani), where the local Nocellara del Belice variety is grown. The oil extracted has a fruity taste and intense flavours.
Valdemone Dop Extra Virgin Olive Oil is typically produced in a coastal and a hilly area. Oil mills found in Castell’Umberto in the province of Messina, prove that oil production began in this area at the end of the 15th century. The most widely cultivated varieties are the Santagatese and the Ogliarola, which give an oil that is characterised by sweetness and moderately fruity taste. The production area includes all the municipalities in the province of Messina with the exception of Floresta, Mojo Alcantara and Malvagna.
Many gourmet restaurants on the island are used to greeting their guests with a Sicilian PDO oil tasting: the oil is served with bread made from ancient Sicilian grains and baked in a wood-fired oven. The perfect welcome entrée to tickle the taste buds and to promote typical local products.
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