Irrigated field crops were complemented by the standard Mediterranean vine and tree crops, the most important of which were olives, the fig, and grapes. Although these three crops were generally considered to occupy the same ecological niche -- hill country and unirrigated plateaux -- fig trees were frequently used as borders on irrigated fields and grapes were often irrigated, when practicable, to increase yields.(61)
We have mentioned the olive before in connection with the frontier: the pale of Muslim settlement did not extend beyond the northward limits of olive cultivation. The Arabs had not introduced the olive (although they may have imported new trees from North Africa to supplant those which perished in the drought of the eighth century); the plant had been a staple of Hispano-Roman agriculture. But the stress that Islamic culture placed upon it, seen, for example, in the almost exclusive use of olive oil for cooking, to the exclusion of animal fats, left a lasting mark: in  contemporary Spanish usage the tree has a Romance name -- olivo -- while the fruit and oil are known by Arabisms -- aceituna, aceite, from al-zaituna, al-zait.
The best-known olive-growing region in al-Andalus was the area to the west of Seville called al-Sharaf -- Aljarafe -- "situtated upon a high plateau of red earth, of an area approximating forty miles square, which can be traversed walking always in the shade of olive and fig trees." Aljarafe oil was highly esteemed and was exported to the east (to Alexandria, according to al-Shaqundi). At the time of the conquest of Seville (1248), Julio González calculates the number of olive trees in the province at more than two and a half million, producing five million kilos of olives. By the end of the century, however, tithes on wheat were more lucrative than the olive tithe, although both were considerable. The distribution of land use of the Aljarafe today (30 percent in olives, 23 percent in wheat, 35 percent in forest, and 12 percent divided among other crops) is probably close in profile to what it was at the end of the thirteenth century, no doubt representing some shift in emphasis toward wheat-growing after the Christian conquest. Other olive-bearing areas of the peninsula may not have matched the Aljarafe in density, but were well known for olive cultivation: Idrisi referred to the Lérida-Mequinenza region as the lqlim al-zaitun -- region of the olives.(62)
Although figs may not have had the economic importance of olives, they afford an excellent example of the intensification of agriculture in Islamic Spain, manifest in the dazzling variety of the fruit available to consumers. In the tenth-
century Calendar of Córdoba, the Latin ficus (fig) translated the Arabic shajar "trees" (the specific word for fig is tin), indicating that the fig was so numerous that it became, by antonomasia, the tree. From the standpoint of production for the export market, Málaga was the most important fig center, the city being surrounded on all sides by figs of the Rayyo (rayyi, also referred to as malaqi, Malagan) variety, "which is the best class of figs and the largest, with the most delicious pulp and the sweetest taste." Malagan figs were exported by Muslim and Christian traders and sold in Baghdad (according to al-Shaqundi) and as far away as India and China, where they were valued for their taste and their ability to preserve it over the full year's travel occupied in their transport. In the Sierra Morena a wide variety of figs was grown, including the qutiya (Gothic), sha'ari (hairy), and doñegal.  The fig was also of interest to the agronomists: al-Hijári reported that in the Garden of the Noria in Toledo there was grown a kind of fig tree whose fruit was half green and half white.(63)
Contrary to what might be expected given the Koranic prohibition of wine-drinking, the spread of Islam not only failed to blot out the grapevine, but in fact, owing to the inventiveness of Islamic horticulture, the number of varieties was even increased. In spite of indications in the Repartimiento literature that grapes were not widely grown in certain areas of southern Spain where vineyards later flourished -- Seville, for example -- the Arabic sources indicate that grape-growing and even wineproduction were widespread. Although we can assume that wine production was to a certain degree attuned to the needs of the Christian and Jewish communities (there was a state-operated wine market in the Secunda district of Córdoba, where many Christians lived, in the time of al-Hakam I), there was a tremendous market for grapes, raisins, and wine among Muslims as well. This is the result of Iraqi, not Christian, influence. Abu Hanifa's dictum declaring the legality of drinking datewine was extended by Andalusi jurists to include all wines. Widespread wine-drinking became current during the wave of Iraqi influence in the reign of 'Abd al-Rahmán II and was said to have been introduced by Ziryáb, the famous singer and arbiter of style. Al-Shaqundi reports that in Málaga the vineyards stretched on uninterruptedly, and that in Ubeda (not a place associated with Christian minorities) grapes abounded to the point where there was no market in them. Another well-known Andalusi grape was the qanbani grape of the Cordoban campiña, perhaps the most productive dry-farming area in the country.(64)
Was this article helpful?