The holm oak is a powerful symbol of the Iberian pig and the acorn-fed ham. This marvellous tree, abundantly present in the pastures where the pigs enjoy the montanera season, is in charge of giving life to the fruit that brings so much flavour and nutritional properties to the ham, the acorn. The holm oak is the acorn tree par excellence and we will tell you about its characteristics in the Enrique Tomás glossary.
What is a holm oak?
It is a large evergreen oak native to the Mediterranean region. These trees are usually about 10 meters high but can sometimes exceed 12 meters, its trunk is thick, hard and compact wood, and has extensive branches of which several arms form a large, attaining in favourable places a height of 21–28 m, and developing in open situations a huge head of densely leafy branches as much across, the terminal portions of the branches usually pendulous in old trees. The young shoots are clothed with a close grey felt. The leaves are very variable in shape, most frequently narrowly oval or ovate-lanceolate; their texture is hard, leathery and persistent, they are greenish-black leaves on the top and a little whitisher on the inside. As for the flower, it is yellowish green and the most important thing about this tree, its fruit, is the acorn. The holm oak produces sweet and bitter acorns depending on the variety.
In an iberian pastureland, this wide field area, full of biodiversity and populated mainly by holm oaks, is where Iberian pigs graze and exercise during the montanera season. In Spain, we have a geographic information system, reviewed and audited by authorized personnel, that delimits the parcels to which pigs can be taken to eat acorns. These areas, marked according to their size and the number of beautiful trees in them, can house a certain number of pigs, ensuring that there is enough acorns and grass for one and each.
Curiosities of the holm oak
- The holm oak is one of the trees that is most present in European culture, the Celts called it Kaërquez, which means beautiful tree.
- According to Celtic mythology, it was in the holm oaks that the Druids, priests with knowledge of prediction, healing and astronomy, teachers and judges met.
- In many cultures this tree is considered a sacred tree, a symbol of longevity and solidity.
- The holm oak has been consecrated to Zeus in Dodona (Greece), to the Capitoline Jupiter in Rome and to Perun of Slavic mythology.
- According to some myths and legends, the nail of Hercules was made of holm oak wood.