Olive Crazy: All About Olives and Olive Oil
Oct 292012

I’ve been reading over some of my notes from the Introductory and Advanced Milling Courses I took at UC Davis early this month, and thought I’d share some of the fun facts I learned from our instructor and from some of the olive growers and olive oil producers present.

  • The fewer varieties you grow, the larger the mill you need. Why? Because each variety is ready to harvest at the same time. This is not cost effective since mills and tanks are super expensive. The solution – know when varieties are ready to harvest and grow more varieties.
  • If you are trying to maximize the polyphenol content in your olive oil remember this – polyphenols are water soluble and about 90% of them end up in your wastewater.
  • Italy consumes 30% more olive oil than they produce. So why does that olive oil at the grocery store say it’s made or produced in Italy? Because Italy has some special marketing deal with other European and North African countries. If another country has their olive oil packaged in Italy and a squirt of Italian olive oil is added then they can say it was made in Italy. Lame!
  • Extracting oil from olives is tough. Processing aids, like talc, salt, and enzymes that break down pectins are used, but don’t worry these aids go away during the olive oil extraction process and aren’t harmful. They just help get more oil out of the olive during the first pressing which is done at lower temperatures so not to burn the olive oil.
  • If your olive oil is shiny then it is burnt. Now go check out all the shiny olive oils on the grocery shelves.
  • The lowest quality olive oil is called lampante. This means lamp oil.
  • Many European olive growers and olive oil producers plump the number of acres of olive trees and amount of oil produced so they can get more of the generous subsidies allowed by the European Union government.
  • You must keep your milling equipment and your plant spotlessly clean or you will ruin your chances of producing extra virgin olive oil.
  • It is not easy to determine how to price your extra virgin olive oil. Here is a great article by olive grower and extra virgin olive oil producer, Mike Madison, The Farmer’s Dilemma: Setting a Price.

May the sun shine through your branches.


 Posted by on October 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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