In the Sierra de Cazorla area in south-central Spain, which produces oil protected by a Guarantee of Origin designation, the Picual olive variety makes up 94% of the olive groves. However, the remaining 6% is occupied by the Royal olive variety, which is indigenous to the area. It is found in a highly mountainous area, which increases the difficulty of the farming work and olive harvesting. The climate of this territory is characterized by cold winters and abundant precipitation, but the consequences of climate change have been shorter winters as well as hot and very dry summers. 40% of the territory belongs to the Natural Park of Sierras of Cazorla, Segura, and Las Villas, which includes nearly 70,000 hectares. In 1983 these mountains were declared a Biosphere Reserve through UNESCO’s ‘Man and Biosphere’ program and in 1988, the European Union classified it in the Special Protection Area for Birds. Because of the requirements these environmental protections bring, both the natural and agricultural landscape are improved, increasing the quality of the olive juice obtained from Royal olives. Royal olive trees flower earlier, but their fruits ripen later than other olives. The trees are vigorous, consistently producing a large amount of fruit, but their wood is more brittle. The dark purple olives produce a smaller quantity but higher quality oil. Royal olives and olive oil face competition from especially from Picual olives, which ripen earlier and contain more oil. Producers of extra virgin Royal olive oil are attempting to educate consumers, who often have lack awareness about olive oil varieties and categories. Extra virgin Royal olive oil is yellowish green with an intense fruity aroma of fresh green grass, apple, almond and fig. It is lightly bitter and gently spicy. Documents dating to the Middle Ages clearly outline the presence of native Royal olive cultivation in the area. Later documents, like a 16th century population census of the Villa de Quesada, outline the trades between the different neighbours and noting the existence of 9 oil mills. Currently, there are 5 cooperative firms that produce the extra virgin Royal olive oil, and today about 400,000 kilograms of are produced and certified annually by the Regulating Council of Guarantee of Origin ‘Sierra de Cazorla’.
The traditional products, local breeds, and know-how collected by the Ark of Taste belong to the communities that have preserved them over time. They have been shared and described here thanks to the efforts of the network that that Slow Food has developed around the world, with the objective of preserving them and raising awareness. The text from these descriptions may be used, without modifications and citing the source, for non-commercial purposes in line with the Slow Food philosophy.