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Olives in Dubrovnik and Dalmatia – Etched in the Region

It will not be long during your stay before you become acquainted with one of the keys to the success of Dalmatian cuisine – olive oil. The oldest olive trees in Dalmatia date back to the arrival of the Ancient Greeks on Hvar in 384 BC!

One fruit has shaped the history and culture of the Dubrovnik and Dalmatian region more than any other, that fruit is the olive. Trace the history of the olive and its production and you will see it closely follows the survival of man in the region. The beginnings of olive production can be seen as far back the Bronze Age and over the centuries this fruit has provided man with survival. Food and oil, medicine and light, the olive was there. Wood for fires, leaves for animal feed, again the olive was there.

The olive is the most plentiful fruit of the Dalmatian region, and it is easy to see why. The rough terrain, south facing slopes and abundance of long summer days are exactly the conditions that the olive tree thrives in. It is estimated that there are around 4.5 million olive trees in Dalmatia. In other words there are more olive trees growing in this region than people living in Croatia. Along with organised olive groves where production is managed there are also numerous olive trees sprouting by the roadside and in private gardens. Olives love light and Dalmatia has light in vast supply.

Four main varieties of olives grow in Dalmatia (Oblica, Levantinka, Lastovka, Drobnica); all of them produce olive oil to the highest order. Whether in a family run concern or a larger business the olive oil of Dalmatia is renowned throughout the world. Its deep green colour and distinctive flavour make it a favourite of top chefs. Demand is high and quite often supply can’t keep up. Again over history the Greeks and the Romans coveted Dalmatian olives and their oil, going to great lengths to bring the nectar back to their civilisations. In various locations along the coastline you can still see remains of the Roman production of olive oil. There are olive trees over a thousand years old still growing along the Dalmatian coast, testament to the joint history of the people and the tree. In fact apart from a few technical advances the process of obtaining oil from the olive hasn’t changed since the days the Romans were harvesting.

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