Four brothers in Murcia rescue the olive oil business that saved Spaniards from the ‘Covid of 1918’

The descendants of Tomás Navarro create Oleum Deos, a company that markets the precious liquid gold.

Wild olive plant.

Acebuchina with brandy crushing to the bone. That was the formula that in 1918, in Coy (a small town in Murcia) was used to save children and adults from the famous Spanish fever. It did the same before with the famine of 1905. A century later and with another pandemic devastating the country, Tomás Navarro and his three brothers have rescued the olive oil business, inheritance from his grandfather, to restore part of the splendor it had in Roman times.

The four brothers inherited the farm from their grandfather (also Tomás Navarro) with some 100hectares of wild olive. This is located in Campo Coy, halfway between Caravaca de la Cruz and Lorca, between pine trees and aromatic plants, and more than 1,000 meters above sea level.

This is how the Oleum Deos project was born as the largest wild olive forest in Spain. What began as a tradition or a hobby to remember and honor the times of their ancestors, it has become a business a few months ago. In addition, it has the support of the Caravaca City Council and the Region of Murcia, which are very interested in the project, Tomás Navarro (grandson) tells Invertia.

olive-oil-extra-virgin-press-2

olive-oil-extra-virgin-press-2

“The four brothers are fighting with my father, who is older, but he is very excited to see again the project that saved the town from the 1918 pandemic,” admits Tomás Navarro, the oldest of the four and a retired civil guard. The team is completed by his other brother, former Iberia fleet manager and two sisters, a chemist and another nurse, who are still active.

But perhaps it is necessary to make a stop along the way to explain that the wild olive is a variety of olive tree, whose scientific name is Olea europaea var. silvestris. He is the firstborn of the olive trees from which grafts were made with the aim of obtaining greater yield from its cultivation. “It is the great unknown because nobody knows what it is. But the mountains of Spain are full of wild olive trees”, admits the businessman.

And it is that the wild olive is the oil of the emperors. Tomás Navarro, with some pride, tells how the Roman emperors ordered wild olive oil for their personal use. “It’s what was in Hispania before the Greeks and Phoenicians arrived with twigs from Egypt and grafted it,” he says.

It is profitable?

However, Tomás is aware that the olive tree is not entirely profitable. Why? Because it produces small olives, wild olives, the amount of oil extracted being more concentrated and scarce than in traditional olives. That means that of every 100 kg of wild olive extract seven liters of oil while if we talk about the olive tree, between 22 and 25 liters are obtained.

Its price is also somewhat high. “The half-liter comes out at 18 euros per bottle”, details Tomás; although remember that many extra virgin olive oils reach these figures on the market.

acebuche

acebuche

In fact, the descendant defends its healthy properties with much higher rates compared to olive oil due to its extremely high content of tocopherols, antioxidant compounds that provide vitamin E and sterols, very beneficial for cardiovascular health. Highly demanded nutrients in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a current production of 3,000 litres, the ceiling set is 8,000 litres. in the best conditions. It must be taken into account that the olive tree is feral. It is an unpredictable and limited harvest, subject to the whims of nature and does not receive any type of phytosanitary contribution. Its cultivation is completely organic.

Future

That is why they cannot make forecasts. At the moment it can be purchased from the company’s website, in some gourmet shops and restaurants in the area and even in Madrid. But this is only the beginning of an expansion that is expected to be broader, although knowing the limitations of this crop.

WhatsApp Image 2020-12-23 at 22.02.40 (1)

WhatsApp Image 2020-12-23 at 22.02.40 (1)

What Tomás can confirm is that it is “an oil full of flavor and health. Everyone who tries it repeats and stays hooked”. That happened to Francisco Rivera Pérez, better known as Paquirri, a lover of this oil that he took on toast as a “good Andalusian gentleman”, says Tomás, who was a friend of the bullfighter, in an anecdotal tone.

Today, the descendants of Tomás Navarro, aware of the contribution generated by the wild olive tree, 2,000 years after its origin and a century after contributing their grain of sand to saving the fever of 1918, make it available again to the Spanish. A demanding challenge, but necessary in these times for its exceptional flavor and the contribution of nutrients. And who knows, maybe it will also help to cope with this pandemic in better health.