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)

ZAFFERANO

November in Italy is the time of the Saffron harvest.  This luxurious and highly prized ingredient is an essential part of the Italian larder, used particularly for its spice and colour.  This week we visited the organic farm Poggio Alloro just outside San Gimignano to discover more about it.

 

Saffron as you probably know is the stigma or thread of the crocus sativus flower.  Cultivated on flat fields it takes around 400 flowers to produce a single gram of saffron.  The bulbs are planted in August and typically harvest takes place over a period of two weeks during November.  The highly manual process begins early in the morning before the flowers open at around 9am when it’s too late to pick them because the stigma can be damaged.  The flowers are transferred inside where the family members and friends congregate to extract the stigma by hand and these are then dried for around 24 hours.

 

As you might expect, nature has a way of delivering good and bad years for saffron.  In honesty, 2017 hasn’t been easy due to the lack of available water so yields are down significantly.  By contast, the team at Poggio Alloro still recalls 2012 for it’s fabulous (and bountiful) results thanks to the right measure of water and a lovely cool autumn.

 

Saffron’s flavour and iodoform or hay-like fragrance results from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal.  In addition, it contains a carotenoid pigment known as crocin, which is what imparts the rich golden hue to food and textiles.  If you want to enjoy it at its best, make sure to by the threads rather than the powder.  Here are a few good dishes to experiment with from Yotam Ottolenghi.

 

Cultivating Saffron is an ancient craft, an immensely laborious process and for this reason it’s an ingredient we should celebrate at this time of the year.