In the heart of Provence, the Var produces a wonderfully fragrant olive oil, using the large variety of olives that thrive in the rich soil. The olive groves extend in all directions, arranged in terraces on the hillsides or fields – a symbol of the region.
Olive oil in the Var
As with the Mediterranean in general, olive oil production is an iconic industry in the Var, produced by 142 villages (out of 153)! At least 32 varieties of olive are grown in the department, of which some are unique to the area, for example the rare La Belgentiéroise, a green, elongated olive with a firm flesh, excellent for cooking.
Established around 10 years ago, the ‘Provence Olive Oil’ appellation is a recognition of the excellence of this produce from a typical area: Provence. This oil contains many varieties of olive, so each bottle is unique.
The virtues of olive oil
Apart from its exceptional taste and aroma, olive oil is globally endorsed for its health benefits, aiding digestion, helping to prevent heart disease and protecting the human brain from ageing.
The olive tree and the olive groves
Olive trees are sacred in Provence, as they represent temperance, wisdom and harmony, as well as triumph – crowning the heads of Olympic victors. These trees come back to life every time they look dead, they return after frost and always blossom again.
This tree is the stuff of legend, with its recognisable silhouette, silvery foliage gleaming in the sunlight, knotted trunk, twisted by age, and fruit that is so bitter on the tree but becomes delicious after a few mysterious processes…
It has shaped the landscape of the Mediterranean basin; here in Provence, we have trained a stony soil by building terraces so that these trees can thrive. Today, the Var is the second-largest olive producer in France, by number of trees!
The departmental olive grove in La Farlède
The olive trees are several hundred years old: some are over 650 years old, and have remarkably thick trunks! They look like a multi-century sculpture exhibition. Each tree has grown over time, through the wind and drought.
Oil mills and olive-growing estates
The Var is the department with the largest number of oil mills, with 41 mills, including 25 cooperative and communally-owned mills.
Although some of the mills are decidedly modern, others remain faithful to their roots. Some mills offer guided tours of the mill and olive groves.
Old mills to visit: Partégal mill in La Farlède, Flayosquet mill in Flayosc, Callas mill and the former oil mill turned into a museum.
Various modern mills are also open to the public, in order to learn more about the production process, such as the Domaine de Taurenne (olive grove also open to the public) or the Gervasoni oil mill in Aups, the Moulin du Haut Jasson in La Londe-les-Maures, Le Clos Saint-Martin in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, and many more.
For fans of Provençal history and tradition, the beautiful museums of Popular Art and Traditions will explain olive production, the life of local people, with beautiful pieces of the mill.
Olive tree festivals and events
In the Var, many villages organise festivals and events to celebrate the olive tree and olive. Here are some of the main ones:
- Olive Festival – Varages – March
- Olive Festival – Rayol-canadel-sur-Mer – April
- Olive Tree Festival – Aups – April
- Olive Festival – Draguignan – June
- Olive Tree Festival – Tavernes – 1st Sunday in September
- Olive Tree Festival – Ollioules – 1st weekend in October
- Olive Tree Festival – Le Val – December