A Brief History
Olives, the gordal or manzanillo varieties are grown today just as they were thousands of years ago by archaic Baetican, Roman and Al-Andalus agricultural farming cultures. The table olives became popular when they were first exported to the New World at the beginning of the 16th century; this event was recorded in the Notarial Archives of Seville (9th of December, 1510) in a deed drawn up for the first cargo of olives exported to the Indies:
“Diego Rodríguez Pepino, a local of Triana, the grand master of the ship “Santiago”, charters it to Diego Martínez, a local of Villalba del Alcor, to load it with four tons of cargo; three tons of wine in barrels, a quarter ton of olives and the rest, fruit, which shall be shipped to the port of Santo Domingo, in the “Española”.
For more than five hundred years America has been and still is the main consumer of table olives.
So what has changed since them? The HOJIBLANCA olive.
The oldest Andalusi tradition is still followed today, even when it comes to sizing and grading the fruit. This is calculated according to the number of fruits which make up a given unit of weight. For example, ten fruits of the Gordal variety make up one unit, and seventy fruits are equal to one kilogramme. Nowadays the metric system is used to measure weight, but if we go back in time the unit of weight was the pound, and travelling even further back to the time of the Moors weight was measured in arrates. One arrate contained 16 ounces. Fruits of the varieties Manzanilla and Hojiblanca are classified into five different size classes. A kilogramme contains 160 fruits of the largest size class, while 420 to 440 fruits from the smallest size class are needed to make a kilo.
In the 1950’s, my father Máximo Torrent San Emeterio and another business partner from Malaga started producing the HOJIBLANCA variety of table olives.
In the first few years they were not allowed to export them, given that if olives did not grow in the shade of the Giralda bell tower of Seville they were not considered to be suitable for table olives.
The order issued on the 18th of September, 1964 on the regulatory standards governing the exportation of table olives finally recognised this variety and classified it in group B.
Later on, the Decision from the Directorate–General for Foreign Trade regulating the exportation of table olives hand-picked during the 1965-66 season in point 1, authorised exporters from the province of Cordoba and Malaga that were registered in the Special Register of hand-picked olives, to export a quota of 500,000 kg of the varieties ojiblancas (*), cordobi and aloreñas exclusively to the US and Canadian markets.
Nowadays the HOJIBLANCA is the most popular variety of olive in terms of the number of kilos processed and exported as table olives out of all the commercial varieties.
Torrent Béjar Francisco 1898 – 1998 TORRENT, “Un siglo nos contempla” (Looking Back on a Century)
(*) Author’s note. At dawn in the non-native growing regions of the hojiblanca variety of olive, the word hojiblanca is taken from ojo (eye) and blanco (white) from the colour of the underside of the leaf of this variety of olive.