Farm Tour Diaries: An Olive Oil Wonderland

By Vegetarian Times May 28, 2009

An Olive Oil Wonderland

I went to Tunisia to learn about Tunisian olive oil and discovered much more than I expected. Tunisia, though technically in Africa, is so close to Europe that many French, Italians, and Spaniards vacation here. The draw�golden sand beaches; warm, clear Mediterranean waters; and a wonderfully inviting, diverse culture.

The official language of Tunisia is Arabic and the state religion Islam, however French is spoken by almost all (because Tunisia was a French colony from 1881 to 1956) and the role of religion is much more relaxed here than in other Muslim countries.

The history of Tunisia goes as far back as 814 BC, when the Phoenicians settled in Carthage. Later the Romans moved in, and even Christianity had a strong presence here for a while, leaving the country full of remarkable scattered ruins from the different civilizations, including beautiful mosaics, amphitheatres, baths, statues, churches, and more.

Before you hit the Sahara desert in the south of Tunisia, you will find rolling hills with rows and rows of olive trees. Olive growing has been a favorite pastime in Tunisia since the Phoenicians inhabited the area. Another interesting fact is that Tunisia is the fourth largest producer of olive oil in the world, after Spain, Italy, and Greece. So, chances are you�ve consumed some Tunisian olive oil in the past, but most likely it�s been in a blend, mixed with other countries� oils.

If you�d like to taste 100 percent Tunisian olive oil you don�t have to search too far. Shop.com sells some, as does truefoodsmarket.com. And for more information on olive oil from Tunisia you can go to tunisia-oliveoil.com.

�Gabrielle Harradine, Market Editor

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