CULTIVAR

 

There are around 800 different Olive Cultivars in Italy alone, many of which are used for Olive Oil. Similarly to grape varieties in wine, the Olive cultivar influences the flavour profile of your oil.  Different cultivars, depending on size of fruit, thickness of the skin, composition of the pulp can produce different yields, varying concentrations of anti-oxidants and overall different quality levels.

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)

THE UNDENIABLE CLIMATE CRISIS

Gone are the days when the disturbing pace at which our climate is evolving was an elephant in the room that we didn’t wish to mention.  The past, strange 24 months have surely brought even the most sceptical out of obscurity with constant alarms of flash flooding, wild fires, extreme droughts and excessive temperatures.

 

Climatic extremes are of massive concern to agriculture and where we live in rural Italy, it’s a palpable sensation.  From the very late and intense freeze this year across central Italy to the wild fires in Sicily and Sardegna over the summer, farmers up and down the country are overflowing with concern.

 

Reading about the risk that intensive olive farming in Southern Spain is leading to potential desertification confirms to me that we can’t keep asking more of our land without listening more carefully.  The Olive Tree is supremely resilient, it has survived for many thousands of years in the Mediterranean but we need to accept that there will be years when it will give less.  Like all life, the olive tree needs to be respected for shutting down if it gets too hot or too cold, for not bearing fruit if it is unable to sustain its growth, for giving clear signals if it is unhappy.  As our understanding grows of sub-soil communications and how plant life manages to build natural resilience it is surely time to improve our listening, to increase the values we place on organic and sustainable farming practices, to support in particular the smaller farmers who are so conscientious and intuitive to their land.  But there is a number attached to this, and it’s higher than we think. We can’t keep getting more for less.

 

As we catch up with our growers ahead of the 2021 harvest, we are hearing that the yields are likely to be significantly reduced this year, not least because of the intense summer heat spikes.  The effect of this however has been to concentrate the olives, so whilst it’s still a little too early to call, the likelihood is that intense flavours as well as polyphenolic concentrations will be high.  Many of you will be thrilled to hear that.

Cime di Rapa

Cime di Rapa

Rapini or broccoli rabe: bright green, decisive in flavour and intensely good for you.  Fresh from the orto as we head towards winter and favoured in the kitchens of southern Italy in particular, it’s an ingredient we always looked for when we were in London but that we only really started to use regularly when we moved to Italy.READ MORE

The noble Borlotto

Grown most successfully in the Veneto and specifically in Lamon where they are famed for their production (if you are buying dried Borlotti, then it’s worth looking for the origin Lamon), borlotti beans are high in potassium and magnesium as well as giving a decent dose of iron and vitamin B6. Borlotti are extremely good for you and just the ticket as the weather turns colder. READ MORE

Zucchini summer recipes

Zucchini. The never-ending summer story

This wonderful summer squash from the Cucurbitaceae plant family (which includes melons, marrows and cucumbers) is thought of as a vegetable, but is in fact a fruit. You find it in a range of tones, but we prefer the pale green romanesco variety with its firmer consistency and superior flavour both cooked and raw.READ MORE

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.READ MORE