olive oil

The best olive oil in the world? This village thinks so

A jar of mujadara was packed and ready to go, and next to it was a small jar of olives and bread. It was the middle of winter in this Palestinian mountain village in Galilee, and Abla Hussein, now 86, was a child, not even 7 or 8 years old at the time. She was ready to walk for an hour into the olive grove where she and her family would spend all day during the nearly three months of the harvest season.rameh olive oil

The olives grown there are oily and succulent, she said. “She had so much oil in it and the rameh olive oil was so sweet that it slid down her throat,” she said.

Rameh olive oil

Rameh olive oil  has long had a reputation for being the best in the region, and it is at the heart of the town’s identity. Fresh from the press, it is a sparkling liquid gold with aromas reminiscent of wild herbs and dandelion leaves growing around olive trees. People describe it as ripe and smooth, almost like samne (base oil or refined butter).

Southern Spain and southeastern Italy are now the world’s largest commercial olive oil producing regions, but evidence suggests that the land around the Sea of ​​Galilee, where Lame is located, is found on the slopes of Mount Haidar and was once the most important olive. A growing region in the world. . According to recent research, it is also the site of the first olive groves dating back to 5000 BC.

Today, some 2,000 acres of centuries-old olive trees surround Rameh. Blue sea, leaves rustling like waves. In newspaper articles, books and even poetry, olives are described as “the best I have ever seen” and the town itself is described as “the queen of Palestinian oil.”

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Yousef Hanna, chef and owner of Tiberias’ famous Magdalena restaurant, stores fresh harvested oils in glass jars and freezers to deliver freshly squeezed flavors to guests all year round. Hanna, 47, from Rameh, said he has tried olive oil from all over the world. Some, such as the recent Sicilian bottle of Etna, taste similar, but he still prefers to buy locally in season jellies.

“Look, everyone thinks their oil is the best, but ramé olive oil is soft and does not burn. It is like a ripe fruit. It’s tangy but sweet. .

There is an Arabic proverb that says “A monkey is a gazelle in a mother’s eyes”. 60-year-old Mr. Ali is the co-founder of a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the region’s olive trees. He is from the nearby village of Deir Hanna, but acknowledges that Rameh oil is an exception.

So, if this oil isn’t superior, what’s so good about it? There is no shortage of explanations.

Ali said there are many factors, such as olive flies, pests that attack olive trees on inland shores. Flies force other villages to harvest olives earlier before crops are damaged. However, because Rameh is higher and more inland, you can wait longer and the olives can ripen on the tree. The result is an oil with a “pleasant bitter taste but still delicate and fruity”.

“But that’s enough. I’m going to get mad now,” he laughed. “The Deirhanna olive oil is also very good.”

Musa Khalaf, 82, a retired real estate professional and owner of one of Lame’s largest olive trees, spoke of the quality of the repair olives grown there. The repair olive is an older variety that produces large amounts of oil. It also has a good climate, nutrient-rich soil plowed by livestock and no fertilizer is used, and meticulous pruning and care all year round.

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Khalaf said olives are harvested when they are fully ripe. They are still hand-harvesting from the lames and using poles to slice ripe olives. Olives are pressed immediately after harvest to give them a softer flavored oil.

Prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Rameh’s olive trees could produce up to 250,000 liters in high-yielding years. Oil was widely sold throughout the country, as well as in Lebanon and Syria. However, production declined sharply over the next 70 years.

Cultural researcher, author, and Hussein’s nephew, Nasab Hussein, 34, documents these changes in her 2020 book “Rameh: An Untold Story.” She described how Palestinian peasant land expropriation and closures border Syria. Lebanon, resulting in a labor shortage, has reduced the economic viability of olive cultivation. “We cannot separate our olive story from our political story,” she said.

She said people worked and went to school in Lame and still depend on growing olives for their income. However, from 1948 to 1966, the Israeli military regime restricted movement, preventing farmers from accessing the forest. The trees were neglected, yields were much lower, and prices plummeted. Today, far fewer families are dependent on growing olives than in the past, which no longer supports the village economically. It is not even clear how much lamé oil is currently being produced.