Azapa Olive

Ark of taste
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Olivas de Azapa

Olives were introduced into the Azape and Huasco valley in the 16th century by the Spanish, and Azapa olives come from the sevillana variety. In 1560 authorities of Pero brough three olives from Sevilla, Spain, and it is said that one of these ended up in Chile, as it was able to develop much better there than in Peru. In 1609 Spanish poet and soldier Gracilaso de la Vega says that “it was such a prized and sought-out olive that the most important guests were offered a maximum of three”.

Traditional preparation of these olives calls for them to be placed in brine with water and salt (ten kg of olives for two kg of salt) and left to rest for three days before they are removed. They are then left for another five days in salt water, until they lose their bitter flavor and take on a more pleasant taste. They are moved and stirred with wooden sppons, as the use of hands or metal ware would make them swell and soften too much. The olives are then conserved in huge containers for over one year. Lately they are also stuffed with rocoto hot peppers, almonds or moron, a particular kind of pepper.

The historic production area is the Azapa valley, in northern Chili’s Arica and Parinacota regions. The indigenous community tied to the product descends from the Aymara community, ancient inhabitants of the Andes. Today these olives prepared traditionally can only be found in local festivals.

Azapa olives are in danger because while being prepared for conservation they are more and more often substituted by Peruvian olives, which are less valuable and more bitter. What’s more, the preparation process in brine is becoming ever more industrialized and much different from the traditional methods.

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Arica y Parinacota

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Indigenous community:Aymara