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.

www.olivecrazy.com

Oct 312014
 

Turkey in TexasThe Spanish invested in the California Olive Ranch now it looks like the Turkish invested in the Texas Olive Ranch.

Two years ago in 2012, Texas business man, Jim Henry, told the world he planned to plant 300,000 olive trees in Carrizo Springs, Victoria, Texas (the article above says 30,000, so who knows). At that time Jim stated he’d produced extra virgin olive oil from 40,000 trees already in production and wanted to grow the olive industry in Texas.

Today Jim announced that he had transferred ownership of his Texas Olive Ranch to a group of Turkish investors. His announcement accompanied this statement, “I’m not a farmer. I’m not sure what I am.” I’m not sure what that means but Olive Crazy is guessing that even though Jim’s Texas table olive and olive oil vision was real, it was probably more expensive than he wanted to handle.

Regardless of how all this turns out in the end, the most lucrative potential market for extra virgin olive oil is in the United States and the supply of US evoo doesn’t come close to meeting the demand. Currently US olive oil and table olive production is in California. Unfortunately for US consumers California has never produced enough to meet demand. Even worse, the drought conditions in California and persistent olive fly problems have caused a number of California growers to pull out their trees in hopes of growing more profitable crops.

Make no mistake, farming is hard work and the unpredictability is tough for many folks to handle. I certainly don’t blame Jim or any of the California olive growers for their business decisions. I wish them and the US olive industry well.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

Oct 172014
 
Georgia Olive Farms Olio Nuovo

Georgia Olive Farms Olio Nuovo

Hot Damn! I love, love, love the unfiltered olive oil that comes straight out of the olive mill. Some olive oil companies call it olio nuovo, some call it limited edition, and some, new oil: whatever it’s called this freshly pressed, unfiltered olive oil is a treat.

I’m going to interject a word of warning here. DO NOT SAVE IT FOR LATER. Use it up pretty quickly. Why? Because when some of the olive fruit is left in the oil it spoils faster, but – hey – you didn’t buy a great extra virgin olive oil to look at – right? Go ahead and mangia!

Olive harvesting in the northern hemisphere started in September and in my U.S. state, Georgia, harvesting is almost over. The first to have olive oil is Georgia Olive Farms and now, for one month only, they are selling their fresh, olio nuovo extra virgin olive oil through their online store. I just bought a six pack so hurry and get yours too.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

May 222014
 

In the spring of 2014 Senator Tommie Williams, Darrien Ramsey, and Clint Williams owners of Terra Dolce Farms won an international olive oil competition and now it’s “game on.” Additional olive trees were planted this spring at Terra Dolce and I’m pretty sure they are a variety that hasn’t been planted commercially yet in Georgia. Even though it’s a few years away, I can’t wait to taste the newest evoo.

Terra Dolce‘s fall 2013 harvest, its first and most recent, sold out fast. One of the locations fortunate to sell Terra Dolce is Strippaggio, an olive oil, vinegar and specialty foods store located at Emory Point in Atlanta, Georgia. The owner, Celia Tully, could barely keep the buttery and grassy oil on her shelves.

Celia is very picky about the olive oils she carries at Strippaggio. She carries only US-grown olive oils and only the best. This is what sets Strippaggio apart from most of the other olive oil stores you will find around the US. Few are permitted by their supplier to offer US-grown olive oils and if you want some of the beautiful US-grown oils you find in California and Texas you need to order online or stop in locally. By the way, Strippaggio can sell online too.

Below is a link to a new article from Georgia Public Broadcasting. Enjoy.

Move Over Peaches: Olives Could Be Georgia’s New Popular Crop.

Apr 112014
 
Sen. Tommie Williams, owner of Terra Dolce Farms in Lyons, Georgia.

Sen. Tommie Williams, owner of Terra Dolce Farms in Lyons, Georgia.

Lyons, Georgia is now on the map for extra virgin olive oil. Terra Dolce Farms, owned by my friend and former colleague, Senator Tommie Williams, has earned Gold this past week at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. The winning oil is from Terra Dolce’s first-ever harvest.

Many, many, many congratulations.

I had the pleasure of tasting several of Terra Dolce’s extra virgin olive oils this past winter. Tommie and his guys hand-picked small batches of different varieties over the course of several weeks, milling and testing as they went – perfecting and data collecting. I have no doubt that all Tommie’s oils in the future will be so lovingly produced.

I’m sure many of you wonder why a Georgia olive-growing farm would be named Terra Dolce. Sure, there is the nod to the Mediterranean region, but it is also a nod to a very famous food from the area, Vidalia Onions.

In 1931 farmer Moses Coleman planted a variety of typically spicy white onions. When he harvested his crop he noticed that the onions weren’t spicy at all, they were sweet. This sweetness was due to the soil present in Toombs County where both Vidalia and Lyons are located. It certainly stands to reason that if the humble onion can be transformed then why not the humble olive.

I texted my congratulations to Tommie today and learned that he is busily planting more trees. I am excited and hope to visit with him this summer in his little piece of terra dolce.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com