Jan 232016

Did you ever wonder about the saying “like pouring oil on water” to describe a calming effect?

From the producers of PBS NOVA © WGBH Educational Foundation; host, writer, animator, and editor, Greg Kestin of What the Physics?!, will show you how it works in this video called Lake vs. 1 TBSP of Olive Oil.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Dec 102014

virginBloomberg Businessweek says Sir Richard “the blonde knight” Branson and his Virgin Group are aggressive defenders of their US trademarking. If you’re doing or wish to do business in the US and want to use the word “virgin” in any of your products or materials then expect to hear from Sir Richard’s legal counsel.

And, guess what! I think this might be a good thing.

Over the last couple of years I’ve had occasion to join in on some marvelous olive oil conversations with folks that run the gamut (I’m fighting the urge to type gamete but you may not find it as funny as I do) of the international olive oil trade. At some point there’s always a moan session (not the fun kind) 😉 involving real business threats and random jackassery. The subject of everyone-and-their-brother purveyors of human digestible fats using the terms “virgin” or “cold-pressed” makes these people crazy. Since I am an enthusiast of anything olive and conduct olive research I don’t get bent out of shape about the loose usage of those highly-coveted modifiers. So, when I saw the article about Richard Branson’s fight to be the only “virgin” in town I had to put what that meant to the olive oil industry into context.

In the article, past midway, there is a reference to a Chilean company using the term extra virgin for a vinegar product they wanted to sell in the US. Sir Richard’s legal team filed against them and the Chilean’s gave up. This made me very curious so I thought about what I know about food-oil processing and regulations. I don’t believe Virgin Group has gone after the US Department of Agriculture for their show-piece olive oil standards and I don’t believe they will. I know how seed oils, canola, walnut, peanut, etc. are produced and using any term which includes a form of “virgin” in it is a big stretch. I have seen cold-pressed on coconut oil jars but admit to having no idea how coconut oil is made and don’t care enough to do an internet search to find out. I ask myself – does this mean that olive oil producers, wholesalers, and retailers can expect Sir Richard and his merry legal band to charge to their rescue and take on those companies who violate “virgin.” One can only hope.

Now, as far as cold-pressed is concerned, unless some wealthy influencer latches on to cold-pressed as their business name, for example, Cold-Pressed Records, Cold-Pressed Mobile, or perhaps Cold-Pressed Outer Space (a fictional container storage for space travelers – think Aliens) then I think the olive oil world influencers will just need to depend on themselves and their enthusiast buddies to educate consumers about what it means to be a delicious and nutritious “virgin” olive oil.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Dec 052014

2014 does not equal 2015This summer I was shopping for olive oil. I prefer buying US-grown extra virgin olive oil and ran out of all the latest US-harvested oils from 2013, and the 2014 US oils hadn’t been harvested yet. As is my habit I looked at the harvest dates on each bottle and noticed that one of the big California olive oil producers had a 2014 harvest date on all their labels.

I was surprised since I knew that this particular producer had not harvested in early 2014. I guessed that they had purchased some foreign olive oil that matched the taste profile of their oil and were reflecting the harvest date of the newer oil, or that it was just a mistake. It never occurred to me that something was wrong.

Earlier this year I read the new California Food and Agricultural Code section that created the state Olive Oil Commission. The Commission is comprised of olive oil producers and handlers who produce 5,000 gallons or more of olive oil in a period that extends from July 1st of a year through June 30th of the next year. Today I just reread that law before diving in to the subsequent rules and regulations promulgated under the auspices of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. These rules and regs were enacted on September 26 of this year.

Well! If what I am about to print isn’t just some sloppy legal drafting then it is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers. Check it out.

The following is from the labeling section of the new rules and regulations for olive oil grade and labeling standards:

11.3.6 Year of Harvest. If reference is made to a harvest date, then 100% of the olives used to make the oil must have been harvested during that time period. Because the harvest typically runs from October through January, the dating refers to it by the calendar year; for example the 2014-2015 harvest season is deemed to be the 2015 harvest. When oils from multiple years are combined and the year of harvest is indicated the label must indicate each of the harvest years contained therein. If the month and year of harvest are indicated then 100% of the oil must be from that period. If the season and year are indicted then 100% of the oil must be from that period.

What this says ladies and gentlemen is that California producers of 5,000+ gallons of olive oil annually can claim that their entire harvest is from the next year even if they complete their harvest prior to the end of the year, as long as it’s within the season. What it also alludes to is that producers of less than 5,000 gallons of olive oil a year are out of luck since they are not actually subject to this law.

Considering the updated harvest labeling that showed up on the bottles of olive oil I mentioned above, this is not a mistake. It is deliberate, by one, some, or all. Therefore it is designed to hoodwink consumers. The next time I hear or read one of those 5,000+ California producers or handlers complain about the fraudulent practices of the Europeans and the US olive oil importers I won’t be very sympathetic.

I doubt the author of the original law, Senator Wolk, had this regulated result  in mind. Grab a pen, some redrafting is in order.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Nov 012014


Brisbane QLD AU

Brisbane QLD AU

It wasn’t long ago that the Australian province of Queensland suffered record floods. Now some parts have the opposite water problem and are suffering from drought. Three months ago the areas outside of the capital city, Brisbane, were declared drought-stricken and 15 olive growers filed for Drought Relief Assistance.

While olive growers in the northern hemisphere are harvesting, growers in the southern hemisphere are looking for the fragrant, snowy-white blooms that foretell a healthy olive crop. In the drought-affected areas of Queensland the blossoms are burned and brown.

The olive growers west of Brisbane haven’t had many good crops in the last several years, but they still know they have businesses to run. With the help of other Australian olive growers the Queensland growers have several options: buy olives from other groves and press them in their own mills, harvest directly from another grower’s land and again press them in their own mills, or buy bulk olive oil from another grower and bottle it for sale under their own label. But, regardless of these options lots of money in wages, equipment, pest management, etc. are lost daily.

While Queensland growers wait for November rains (good) or el Nino (bad) at least they have some financial relief in sight. I am hoping they get just the right amount of rain.

Here’s a run down on what the Australian Drought and Rural Assistance Program provides:

  • Income support
  • Farm finance
  • Farm management deposits
  • Tax measures
  • Financial counseling
  • Drought loans
  • Water infrastructure investment
  • Community support
  • Pest management
  • Interest rate subsidies

May the sun shine through your branches.