Oil “of the Marchia”

Olive tree is symbol of peace and longevity. But also sufference and tenacity. Those bent but dynamic logs, which characterize marchegian rural environment and above all our hill countryside, are the sign of the ancestral devotion and the deep love that this plant can give to who plants it, to who vies with it during the seasons.

Olive tree has been growing up for six thousand years below mediterranean sky and as many as the years spent by the core of its outcomes which enlights table, home and men's life. Oil of the Marche has always been famous and pretious for its quality. Antonio Muratori in the book "Aniquity of Italy in the Middle Age" wrote that in the 1228 marchegian ships that landed Ferrara had to pay the "ripatico" a fee of 25 pounds of oil.

Marche oil, because of its goodness and quality, was given a higher value than other regions'. In 1263, Venetians, masters in trade, divided Marca oil supplies from the others to sell them at a higher price just because of its perfume and taste. La Serenissima was the main purchaser of marchigian oil, but a great part also went to Florence. A documents certifies that in 1347 Florentines imported from Marca over 2.500 oil jars. Its goodness also comes from its geographic position: regarding olive production we are a marginal land. And the oil produced at higher latitude has an optimal sour composition (Marche is one of the northest regions).

According to Greek mythology Athena planted olive tre in Greece in a challenge with Poseidon to own Attica. That's the why olive trees were considered holy (as well as sign of chastity). Not only it was forbidden burning its wood, but who damaged them was punished. Even Spartans, when they raided Athens, spared them, fearing gods' revenge.

Being always green it's been considered as symbol of wisdom that reveals Justice's path (in the Bible there are lots of quotations). Always in the Bible it's indicated as symbol of life and hope. After the deluge the pidgeon comes back to Noah with a leaf of olive tree, teared up by its beak. Oil, besides being essential food, is also consecration, sign of blessing, source of light, heals wounds, strengthen sick people, makes bosy shining, honors guest.

For people from Marche, until the first half of 1600s, oil (together with wine and wheat) has beeb the main form of richness. Also nowadays marchigian oil (rather, oils, becuase there are different types, according to the areas) are very appreciated and famous. Production is not that overmuch anymore as before, but it's cutting edge regarding quality. It'd have what it takes to get PDO, but prosaic, boysh and fruitless local squabbles prevented this achievment.

Among the different kinds for oil there's a very particular and unique: Ascoli tender olive. Long ago Ascoli olives were offered at the beginnings of the feasts to stimulate hunger and at last to clean mouth. Plinio considered them the best among all the italian kinds. And in the description of the famous feast of Trimalcione there's a quotation of Ascoli olives offered to Nerone and his tablemates as aappetizer. Nowadays they are served full of a mixture of meats and are a basic component of the fried side dish in the most luxurious lunches. With the tender Ascoli olive people also make an excellent oil.

Today in the Marche there are a bit more than 30 thousand tonnes olives. Oil production exceeds 5 thousand tonnes. Considering that, on average, we use 22-27 pounds oil each, our region needs at least 15 thousand tonnes. Produced oil covers at least one third of the demand. Most of the use is ensured by the oil coming from abroad. At Ancona harbour every month 5 thousand tonnes oil pass which arrive by boat and are transported with trucks, like gasoline. A really different product, both by the organoleptic and by the healthy point of view, compared with the one that comes out from our oil mills and particularly from small producers which control quality with freaking attention.

In the 50s professor Ancel Keys (great master of human nutrition, passed away eight years ago at the age of 101) with the "Study of the seven countries" proved that some populations in the Mediterranean basin had a rate of mortality caused by cardiovascular diseases ten times lower than U.S.. Most of merit has been given to mediterranean diet which has as base cereals, fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil. And inside mediterranean diet extra virgin olive oil demonstrated a dietary superiority compared to all other fats, vegetable and animal. What matter is that it's quality oil. Thus it's essential to know where it comes from, how it is produced and how it is kept.

Price is an element, even though not the only one, to distinguish a quality oil. Have you ever wondered what can be there in a 3€ bottle (sometimes even less)? Make an estimation of the extra-product costs, including labour: bottle, dripless pour spout, label, transportation, packing and sale. How much remains for oil?

Other question: how much do you pay for the oil you put into the car as lubricant for the engine? At least 15€/L! And does it seems logic, rational and healthy use for our "engine" (i.e. human body) an oil that costs five times less?

Too often we ignore the homemade "golden oil" (Homer, in The Odissey, called it the golden liquid) to go serching the one coming from abroad, which golden is barely the color. Unfortunately that's the self punishing mentality which reings in the drowsy and hidden Province. But maybe the time to look around and open up the eyes has come…