Why pay more? is a scream we often hear in a world that is increasingly becoming Macdonaldised everywhere you look. Why indeed? Because quality is still something that many people value, even if it costs a bit more. When it comes to our children, we want only the best, and yet when it comes to our health, and specifically what we consume, we often don’t know, don’t care, or prefer to remain ignorant of what it is we are sliding between our teeth every day.
For this reason it is so rewarding to meet somebody like Marta Navarro, whose family have been growing and harvesting olives, almonds and grapes for five generations in the the Natural Park of Cabriel.
Back in 2005 the family decided to ‘go ecological’, which is not as easy as it sounds. Reconversion to a certifiable ‘Eco’ status cost them five years, during which time the pesticides in the soil and the environment are considered to have disappeared and their first eco-harvest, in 2010, has not only passed the demanding tests.
The results were worth waiting for; they now produce two brands of olive oil, which are not only winning awards and being employed in olive oil tasting events, but which are now in demand in Germany and the USA, where it seems that the home of the brave and the land of MacDonald’s is not a lost cause after all.
Olive oil isn’t something a lot of people think a lot about; you either put it on your salad or you don’t, and yet like wine, there is a world within this world that until recently only the connoisseurs were admitted to.
The two brands of olive oil produced by the Navarro family are Aurora Real, named after her grandmother and mother, who are both called Aurora, and Arbequina. The former is produced mainly from the ‘cornicabra’ variety of olive (I was surprised to learn that there are many varieties, not just green and black). It has an intense flavour and is highly recommended for shellfish and octopus dishes. The latter is a softer oil and is appropriate for use with salads, nuts and cheeses.
40,000 kilos of olives from their 20 hectares have produced 6,500 litres of eco-oil from their first harvest, but as Marta points out, with a product so tenderly cared for and pampered, each harvest tells a story, each one is unique to the year it was produced and the unique climatic conditions.
Fortunately we don’t have to go to Germany or the States to sample these oils, nor even to Venta del Moro where the family live, although they originally hail from the nearby tiny village of Casas del Rey. The oil is on sale in Valencia at select locations such as Eco-Organic in Blasco Ibañez, Dulces Conchín, Mantequerias Vicente Ferrer, Charcuteria Variá, Ruzafa Market and Burger King (just joking).
Eco Farming is costly and time consuming (as is bringing up children) but it is worth it when they become lawyers and doctors and look after you in your old age. One example is in the control of pests, such as that of a beetle that often attacks the olive. Now instead of Vietnam-like defoliation technique, the Navarro family resort to tying simple sticky tapes around the trunks of the trees to keep the beetles away from the fruit, just like we used to do with fly paper.
The oil is sold in tins rather than bottles because light, oxygen and heat are the enemies of olive oil.
As well as Marta and the Auroras, her sister Luisa and brother Luis also work in the family business, tending and nurturing the trees, some of which are as much as 500 years old and look like something out of the Lord of the Rings.
While conserving tradition, the family also looks to the future, and is currently analysing the possibility of a line of natural cosmetics based on olive oil and collaborating on a research project with the University of Valencia aimed at making practical use of the waste products produced when pressing the olives.
They also collaborate with a pastry maker in Paiporta, called Genovese, who make a variety of products such as breadstick using their oil, and are also having talks with a foie gras maker.
Visitors are welcome at weekends, when they can learn about ecological farming and get to know the Natural Park, a short trip away from Valencia.
Telephones: 962185068 or 687573558. Website: http://www.oleicoladelcabriel.com/