Discovering the Nocellara olive oil of Mount Etna



In order to discover the Nocellara oil, we must enter the wonderful unique microcosm that is Mount Etna. Here we find different climates and different expressions of the vegetation that adapts to these climates. We find the vines, which give some of the best wines of Sicily, the oaks and birches, the beautiful chestnut and many mushrooms in the woods. And of course the olive trees, certainly at lower altitudes, all around the volcano.

The volcanic soil is rich in precious substances that make the land very fertile and the nourishment of the plants special. That is why every product of Mount Etna’s countries has special characteristics. Also the olive trees and the oil they produce, in particular the species called Nocellara.

The gold of Etna comes from olives

The Nocellara olives come from a tree that has found its maximum spread in western Sicily, and precisely in Val Belìce where it is now a well-established part of the local agricultural economy. The experiment of planting these olive trees also on Mount Etna produced an unexpected and incredible success. The olive tree of Nocellara is – in fact – small but able enough to adapt to any climate and its fruits are round and very large olives, therefore particularly juicy. The result is a rich golden oil suitable for flavouring.

Where the Nocellara of Mount Etna grows

The Nocellara of Mount Etna is mainly cultivated on the southern and western side of the volcano (Belpasso, Paternò, Ragalna, Motta S.Anastasia, Adrano, Bronte, Biancavilla) but also in Castiglione and Randazzo, therefore on the northern flank. It is a type of olive that ripens very early, even in September, depending on the trend of weather during the Sicilian summer, and is strictly hand-picked using ancient methods. After harvesting, these precious green gems are processed “cold” by mixing them many times and filtering through a system that generates an oil with unique characteristics.

Nocellara oil and its characteristics

The Nocellara of Mount Etna is usually an extra-virgin oil and has a very rich flavour of herbs, with hints of walnuts, chestnuts and artichokes to complete the whole experience. It has a bitter aftertaste that does not disturb because it is accompanied by a spicy note that pinches the throat but leaves a nice taste in the mouth. To add a slight fruity sensation, often Nocellara olives are mixed with a minimum part (30-35%) of Tonda Iblea, Moresca or Ogliarola Messinese olives. It is an excellent type of oil for the raw flavouring of your daily dishes but also for the long conservation of brine or in-oil food.


The author: Grazia Musumeci