It wouldn’t be possible to go the south of France without bringing home some of it’s famous olive oil. Olive oil from Provence (Provence olive oil AOC*) is grown across the four departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, the Var, and various communes in Alpes Maritimes. This makes the Var the third largest department in France for olive-growing, responsible for 13.7% all of France’s production. Its 4,700 hectares produce 10-30% of the country’s olive oil. 143 out of 153 communes in the Var produce olive oil. There are also 43 olive mills, 18 cooperatives, 20 private mills and 5 communal mills. Some of these still use a traditional extraction method, grinding the olives with a millstone (the Flayosquet mill*) and pressing the paste to produce the oil. Others use more modern techniques, such as continuous production chains, to increase productivity. Today 32 varieties of olive tree are grown in the Var region. Herbes de Provence are another key ingredient in summer cuisine. The Label Rouge designation applies to a mix of herbs including rosemary, savory, oregano and basil.
* A Protected Designation of Origin (PDO/AOC) is the geographical designation of a country, region or locality which applies to a local product whose quality or characteristics are primarily or exclusively a result of the geographic location, including natural and human factors. It implies a close link between the product, the terroir and local expertise, the preeminence of the soil and terroir, and the notion that the product cannot be produced elsewhere.