LOCATION AND CLIMATE

 

As you might expect, olives grown in cooler areas where there is more moisture (rainfall and dew) exhibit leaner, more restrained characteristics.  This doesn’t however mean that great oil can now be made in Iceland – you need a minimum amount of sunshine to make your Extra Virgin Olive Oil taste remarkable, similarly to tomatoes or stone fruit.

Olive trees are sensitive to winter freeze (the Casaliva cultivar is more resistant to cold, hence being grown in the Garda region).  It is also easier to farm organically where the climate is more stable and less chemical sprays are required to keep the trees healthy.

OLIVE MATURITY

 

Here’s the thing – all olives are green.  When they become fully mature, they turn black.
Olive maturity at the time of harvest is a major factor in flavour and quality: olives harvested earlier (green olives) feature more bitter, grassy characteristics, with lower yields and with the highest anti-oxidant content.  The oil is a much more intense green colour and has a longer shelf-life.  In terms of production, milling can take longer with green olives (a longer malaxation - the action of slowly churning milled olives to release droplets of oil - is needed and can be more complicated) but the results are far superior!  Don’t choose olive oil from over mature fruit: it lacks all the potential goodness and flavour.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN GROVE AND MILL

 

People who care passionately about what they make and follow it personally every day have the capacity to create products with far higher quality, with integrity, and that taste of where they come from.  They are also able to do this by caring for the environment they inhabit.

FRANTOIO DI RIVA BOX

This box contains 6 bottles of extra virgin olive oil made exclusively by Frantoio di Riva from groves on the banks of lake Garda.

Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO green label x 3 bottles (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO organic white label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO blue label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, ULIVA Garda Trentino DOP x 1 bottle (50cl)

Agretti: Spring Magic

Agretti is one of the most unique vegetables you can find in the spring time in Italy. Known as Barba di Frate (Friar’s beard), it’s a collection of beautiful thin emerald green strands, which feel fresh, slightly bitter (agro is Italian for sour), have a lovely mineral saltiness, and if cooked correctly (i.e. not for long) a perfect bite. They are often compared to samphire, they are in fact much more delicate both in feel and in taste, and can be enjoyed as a contorno (side dish), in a salad, but also mixed in a main course (in a pasta dish, or a frittata). Perhaps it is best described as a type of spinach for it’s versatility.

Agretti’s very short season (April & May usually), particular taste and their inherent fun, makes a it vegetable in very high demand and one which is still virtually unknown outside of Italy. They are also very rich in minerals (potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium) and in vitamins A,B & C (though unless you eat them raw, most of the vitamin C is lost). Because they are full of fibre, water and extremely low in fat, they are often recommended by nutritionists: they are give a sense of satiety and are diuretic.

The plant from which agretti derives (Salsola Soda) was used for a very long time to make soda ash, one of the compounds of glass and soap making (the leaves were burned, then the ash mixed with water to create an alkali solution, which eventually became soda ash by boiling it). The best glass blowers in Murano would know where to get the purest soda ash, and would guard the identity of their suppliers. The discovery of synthetic processes to make soda in the 19th made its use redundant to industry, and agretti was left as a low level foodstuff. Fast-forward to now, when it is an extremely desirable and quite difficult to find vegetable, with an incredible taste, great looks and an international fanbase which clamours for it.

There are 3 main things to keep in mind when preparing agretti: cleaning them very well; cutting off all the root and cooking them for a short time (no more than 5 minutes). The cleaning in particular is very important, otherwise they retain earth and grit and make the eating experience not very pleasant. Soak them in cold water for a short while, then run each bunch under cold water. You can cook them in boiling water or steam them, or even eat them raw. In Italy they are primarily used to accompany white meats, and dressed in olive oil, salt and lemon. If you are not eating them immediately after cooking, soak them in cold water, so they retain their lovely colour. Here you can find our recipe for Spaghetti con gli Agretti, which is one of our favourite spring dishes.