As you may have noticed by now, we are big fans of trees here at La Diseñoteca. Although its wood is not particularly valuable for furniture, one of our favorites is one of the icons of Spanish culture: the olive tree. Every time we make the 5 hour drive from Madrid to Malaga, we pass through Jaen and Cordoba, home of the majority of Spain's 170+ million olive trees. Olives and olive oil are essential to the Mediterranean diet, and Spain is by far the largest producer in the world with an annual production of more than twice that of the second biggest producer, Italy. Think about that next time you see rows of 'Italian' olive oil in the supermarket.
One of the regions oldest olive trees is the Millennial Olive of Arroyo Carnicero, located near Casabermeja, Malaga. It is estimated to be more than 1000 years old, and was designated the Best Monumental Olive by AEMO in 2013. That said, it is located in a rather unassuming olive grove off of the road connecting Casabermeja and Villanueva de la Concepción. The small sign indicating Arroyo Carnicero is easy to miss, but once you find the right grove the tree is unmistakable.
The ancient olive is comprised of 3 massive trunks sharing a common root, which was buried deep underground long ago. Amazingly, it still produces edible olives, although they have to be painstakingly picked by hand, rather than by shaking the trunk and collecting the olives in a net. Some of them happened to be on the ground, so Haya helped herself to some raw Millennial Olives.
Although not very well known as a tourist area, it's definitely worth the short drive north of Malaga, and for the drive back you can't beat the old road to Malaga (MA-431). A winding road through the mountains of Malaga, it give spectacular views of Sierra Nevada, the Mediterranean sea, and numerous olive and almond groves, which were just beginning to blossom when we visited in mid January.
It's a shame that olive wood is unsuitable for furniture, as olive trees are so common in the south of Spain. The wood itself is beautiful, but the slow growth and twisted trunks make it unusable for anything but small turned or carved objects. More often than not, it ends up warming Andalusian homes in the fireplace!
Next time you visit Malaga (or if you live here already) take some time to check out some of the natural wonders located just inland. There is much more to see here than beaches and sun, and we will try to highlight some of its unique offerings in future blog posts.