Experiences around ancient olive trees: a unique tourist asset
It's hard to believe but it is true: in Ulldecona there is an olive tree that is older than Constantinople. The Farga del Arión was planted in the year 314 AD. C. and is 1,708 years old. This monumental tree, together with another 6,000 of similar ages that are scattered throughout the Territorio Sénia, has seen almost all the epochs of history pass by. This is how it has remained during all this time, in silence, as a testimony of everything that has happened since then: a true living monument. It seems natural, therefore, that these monuments can be visited, just as religious temples or archaeological remains are contemplated. For a long time, the monumental olive trees have been forgotten, but in recent years the territory has promoted a series of initiatives to recover them and enhance their value.
The Sénia Territory is made up of 27 villages (15 Valencians, 9 Catalans and 3 Aragonese) located on both sides of the Sénia River and around the Tossal del Rei. Although they belong to three different autonomous communities, they share geography, history, language and culture.
The Territorio Sénia is the area with the highest concentration of ancient olive trees in the world: more than 6,000 specimens exceed 3.5 meters in trunk perimeter.
Between 2006 and 2007, the Sénia Table Association and the Sénia Territory Association were created, which since then have collaborated in improving the living conditions of its inhabitants and in promoting the territory. The Commonwealth carries out work to raise awareness among the owners, improve the quality of the oils and create the Farga millenarian oil guarantee mark and promote olive tourism. Its strength is based on putting aside the differences between the territories and seeking the maximum consensus among the peoples to collaborate with all the administrations and cooperate with the economic and social sectors.
To facilitate visits to the most monumental olive trees and to the areas with the largest number, after signing agreements with the owners (since they are private estates), two "open-air museums" have been set up: in Ulldecona and in La Jana ( Castellón) and various "areas of ancient olive trees" in other municipalities, duly signposted in three languages.
There are also some paths, to explore by bike or on foot and museums or interpretation centers, operating oil mills, guided tours, sale and tasting of oil from ancient olive trees and a wide variety of culinary offerings. All this a unique tourist attraction.
“It is authentic and unique, it really is what differentiates us from other places, due to the large concentration of ancient olive trees that we have,” explains the manager of the Mesa del Sénia Association, Tere Adell. "There are more than 6,000, but every year it is updated and new ones appear thanks to the collaboration of the owners themselves."
In the event that an owner considers that he may have an ancient olive tree, he must measure it correctly, since it must be more than 3.5 meters, and he can contact the Commonwealth, which will travel to georeference and catalog it.
World Agricultural Heritage System
In 2018, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognized the thousand-year-old olive trees of the Sénia territory as a World Agricultural Heritage System (SIPAM), being one of the 4 in Spain, 7 in Europe and 57 throughout the world. world.
The Mancomunidad de la Mesa del Sénia presents up to 13 olive tourism experiences to enjoy this natural heritage in a respectful way and discover the world of oil.
One of the experiences is, for example, a visit to the Sinfo olive tree and a breakfast and tasting of Extra Virgin olive oils at the Peset bottling plant, in Traiguera. The owner Amador Peset is a producer of olive oil from millenary olive trees and offers olituristic proposals. Peset has also carried out a great job in recovering these olive trees. «Here we have many ancient olive trees, but nobody took care of them. They are farms that had been abandoned for many years, "explains Peset. "But the olive tree is a very strong and very grateful tree."
The Sinfo olive tree, in Traiguera, is the largest in the territory, with up to 10.20 meters in circumference. Even inside they had once put a little house to shelter. “It is very well preserved, it has a lot of leaves, next year it will be able to do about 120 kilos”, details Peset.
After leaving to see the olive tree, Peset offers a visit to the bottling plant to learn about the oil process, and then serves a breakfast and oil tasting. It offers a dozen, 6 with spices and 4 with aromas: rosemary, oregano, orange, truffle, mushrooms... And without a doubt, trying the ancient oil is also an experience in itself: Farga oils are balanced and sweet, pleasant on the drink, with a fresh aroma and nuances of green grass, reminiscent even in the same landscape of olive trees. Just this month of October, the campaign for certified oil from millenary olive trees has begun, which undergoes a whole quality process.
Olive Trees with Star
Another of the experiences that can be enjoyed is the trip to see the Arión, in Ulldecona, with the Farga del Arión as the main monumental tree, the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula. In the Arión there are up to 191 cataloged ancient olive trees. The guided tour also includes explanations of the context, of how olive cultivation has forged the identity of the territory and how the tree has also been a social link, since families and workers went to fold olives and found themselves in the olive trees, where they spent time together, talking and singing songs.
The “Oliveres amb Estrella” experience is completed with a meal in a Michelin-starred restaurant: Les Moles or Antic Molí, both in Ulldecona.
In the case of the Moles, its chef Jeroni Castell was a pioneer in texturing the extra virgin olive oil from the territory as one of the starters on their menus. «Now we are already doing tests for the new menu that we are going to release in March. The great challenge is to be imaginative, to surprise customers, who already come with expectations », he explains. The restaurant has had a Michelin Star for 9 years. "30 years ago in Ulldecona it was unthinkable that the municipality was one of the three in Catalonia (along with Cambrils and Girona) that has two restaurants with a Michelin Star", he considers.
All the experiences can be consulted on the web www.oliveresmillenaries.com