Precious and famous all over the world, ligurian Taggiasca olives, the pride of Ligurian agriculture, are renowned for the production of an oil of the highest quality and as an ingredient in some of the tastiest Ligurian regional dishes, such as rabbit with olives and Levantine cod.
Produced since 1600 in the Riviera di Ponente, the so-called “black pearls” are in great demand in the preparation of some typical specialties of Liguria (and beyond) that exploit their delicate and unmistakable taste to enrich meat or fish dishes. One of these are the Ligurian Taggiasca olives , of which we present the recipe below.
The characteristics of Taggiasca olives
Taggiasca olives are a particular type of olive cultivar whose color at full maturity varies from brown to black. The characteristic Taggiasca olive, small in size and slightly elongated cylindrical shape, is grown mainly in the area of Western Liguria, especially in the province of Imperia, although today in reality its cultivation extends throughout the region.
The Taggiasca olive tree can reach 15 meters in height and grows well both in the territories closest to the sea and in the high hills, up to an altitude of over 600 meters . The harvest is carried out by hand by dropping the fruits on nets placed under the plants after shaking the branches and fronds with a stick.
Although small, Taggiasca olives have a very fleshy pulp with a sweet and delicate flavor that lends itself well to enrich both homemade preparations and dishes by prestigious chefs. In addition, they have an extremely high oil yield (25-26%), which is also of excellent quality.
The extra virgin olive oil obtained from the pressing of Taggiasca olives is a straw yellow product, with a fruity flavor with a spicy nuance and almond scents. Thanks to these characteristics, the “Riviera Ligure DOP” oil was recognized in 1997 as a Protected Designation of Origin.
The unique context of the production area has made the Taggiasca olive a valuable and unique cultivar also from an organoleptic point of view. In fact, in addition to being rich in mineral salts, this variety of olive is a mine of monounsaturated fats, those that help lower bad cholesterol and raise the good one.
In addition, the presence of antioxidant phenolic compounds such as oleuropein and pinoresinol gives Taggiasca olives protective properties for our cardiovascular system.
Taggiasca olives: the origins
The Taggiasca olive takes its name from the town of Taggia, a small town in the province of Imperia, near Sanremo, where it has found an ideal environment and climate. Its origins are very ancient. According to tradition, it seems that it was the Benedictine monks who began the cultivation of Taggiasca olives in Liguria.
The first cuttings of this cultivar were received by the monks of St. Columban from Lerins, a small archipelago located on the Côte d’Azur, opposite Nice.
From Taggia, the cultivation then spread to the Riviera, where to overcome the impervious terrain, the monks gave life to the construction of terraces bordered by dry stone walls. The grafts of the olive in question were later brought to the rest of Italy, but its cultivation remained prevalent in the province of Imperia.
Tips for use
The Taggiasca olive is considered an excellence of the Ligurian agri-food tradition. Its strengths lie in the taste, which immediately stands out from that of other olives, and in versatility, being the fruits of the Taggiasca variety suitable to be consumed both alone and as an ingredient in various dishes.
Among these, the best known are: Ligurian stewed rabbit, Levantine cod, piscialandrea pizza, caponata, tapenade, pickled olives and olives (pitted or whole) in oil.
In addition, Taggiasca olives can be served as an appetizer or aperitif, used to enrich salads or pasta sauces , combined with fresh and chopped cheeses to obtain a velvety pâté, ideal to spread on canapés or bruschetta.
Ligurian Taggiasca olives: recipe
- 1 kg of Taggiasca olives
- 100 g coarse salt
- water to taste
- extra virgin olive oil to taste
- 1 chili pepper
- 1 clove of garlic
- aromatic herbs to taste
Wash the olives under running water, then place them in a basin, sprinkle with coarse salt and leave them to soak for 10 days in cold water, taking care to change it at least once a day. Then drain the olives, place them on a cloth and let them dry in the sun.
When the olives are completely dry, transfer them to hermetically sealed glass jars, then add the chopped garlic, chopped chilli and herbs. At this point, pour the necessary oil so that the ingredients are completely covered and place the jars in the pantry, so that you always have them at hand.