Think global - buy local.
Oregon Olive Oil
Oregon Olive Trees
2015 @ Oregon Olives™
Feb 23, 2015
A "Very good oil, indeed."!
From a list of labs compiled by Paul Vossen (Agricultural Advisor in Sonoma CA, well noted for his work with olive oil) we chose Agbiolab to do our Analytical Laboratory testing. A friendly bunch, they were very helpful with us "newbies" doing our first testing, and I fully recommend them to anybody else needing this kind of lab work done.
There are three basic lab tests in the olive world, and some optional ones. The basic tests are meant to determine quality, and are: peroxide value, free fatty acid content, and absorbency in ultraviolet. There are other tests, but in general these three are accepted as determining the chemical qualities of extra virgin olive oil (the other lab tests are more meant to detect out and out cheating, like adulteration with canola oil, etc). We also chose to have total polyphenols measured. These give you an idea of whether or not your oil would be considered delicate, medium or robust (corresponding to low, medium or high phenols).
So, here are the results of our lab tests on our oil, bottom line result comment changed to red text:
We are still in the process of bottling all the oils we milled. Here is just a sample, including the Frantoio submitted to testing (both bottles with the necks filled). What beautiful shades of green!
Heck, with oils like these, I guess I can call myself Oregon's True Master Miller! (<Sly grin here>)
Analysis of Analytical Laboratory Test Results
We are not part of the 1%; nor indeed anywhere close to being part of the 10%. We make extra virgin olive oil in our garage, using a R & D scale centrifugal olive mill most of the elites would sneer at (not for any good reason, mind you. Smaller, less expensive, and a little more manual labor required, is all...). We strictly use hand labor to pick, we have no washer / de-leafer to use before milling, no horizontal centrifuge to do fining, we do gravity filtering using a high school chemistry lab sep funnel, and store the olive oil in mason jars.
And yet we can produce a world class extra virgin olive oil, that beats every standard, including the proposed "Ultra Premium Extra Virgin"!
Looking at the tests, one by one.
Analytical Laboratory Tests
According to the "World Catalogue of Olive Varieties", there are about 139 varieties of olive trees that account for around 85% of total crop area. Since we have planted more than half that number of cultivars in the last ten years, we are pretty much finished with the first phase of our olive project (finding out the best cultivars for growing in NW Oregon). The remaining cultivars are mostly fairly obscure, and we will leave their evaluation to somebody else. If that is you, have fun and have at it!
So, the next 10 year phase of our 20 year plan was to learn how to make excellent product out of the collection of cultivars that we have, e.g. olive oil and table olives. So this last season (2104-2015), we made a total of 14 distinct olive oil mill runs of 100% Oregon grown fruit, of different cultivars and of the same cultivar picked at different times:
1 Maurino 11/02/14
2 Arbequina 11/08/14
3 Maurino 11/09/14
4 Leccino 11/11/14
5 Leccino 11/15/14
6 (Field Run) 11/15/14
7 Frantoio 11/17/14
8 Lucca 11/19/14
9 Leccino 11/26/14
10 Leccino / Taggiasca 11/30/14
11 Leccino 12/07/14
12 Coratina / Leccino / Lucca 12/13/14
13 Frantoio 12/23/14
14 Frantoio / Leccino / Hoji Blanca / Picual 01/01/15
If we had the money (we don't) or were supported by the government (we aren't) we would have had all the oils tested for quality. So, limited to one, we chose one from late in December, as our olive growing district is always going to have to harvest relatively late. Also, the poorest quality of olives (see pictures of each run in this blog as they sit in the mill hopper) occurred in mid November as a result of several hard frosts. So, we had the double interest in testing a late picking: to show that late pickings were possible, and that pickings after a hard frost or two could still yield good oil. At least we hoped so.
So, the long and the short of it, we chose to submit the 100% Oregon grown 100% Frantoio oil, picked on 12/23/14. As such, this oil is called a "single varietal", and also happens to be what is called a "single estate" oil (reminder to self: more on that at another time). But is it of extra virgin quality? Well, for that, we needed to have lab work done.
This is a crude indicator of the amount of primary oxidation that has occurred, forming peroxide compounds within the oil. A high value indicates that the olives or paste was likely handled improperly, the oil could be defective, and the oil might not keep well.
Our peroxide value came in at 3.50 (all the units check correctly on all results. e.g meq O2/Kg, and so have been omitted for clarity).
Looking at the
results given on the right, we can compare results directly - our result has been roughly placed on the chart of California producers with a dab of red spray paint.
Right about in the center of the best results. and far within some common standards:
IOC EVOO: <= 20
U.S. EVOO: <= 20
COOC <= 15
3E "Beyond EVOO": <= 7.5
This is a crude indicator of the quality of the fruit and handling procedures prior to milling. It is a measurement of hydrolytic breakdown of the fatty acid chains from triglycerides into diglycerides and monoglycerides, liberating free fatty acids. Free acidity in an oil is not the same as sourness or acidity in other foods. Free fatty acids (acidity) cannot be tasted in olive oil, at least not at the levels normally present.
Our Free Fatty Acid value came in at 0.19. Looking at the California results compiled by Agbiolab once again show we are well within an standard and are right in there with the best producers
IOC EVOO: <= 0.8
U.S. EVOO: <= 0.8
COOC <= 0.5
3E "Beyond EVOO": <= 0.3
This is a more delicate indicator of oxidation, especially in oils that have been heated in the refining process. It measures the quantity of certain oxidized compounds that resonate at wavelengths of 232 and 270 nanometers (nm) in the ultraviolet spectrum in a spectrophotometer. Delta (Δ) K detects oil treatments with color removing substances and the presence of refined or pomace oil by measuring the difference between absorbance at 270 nm and 266 nm – 274 nm.
Some of the standards with their limits:
UV - K232
IOOC EVOO <= 2.5
U.S. EVOO: < 2.5
COOC: < 2.5
3E "Beyond EVOO": < 1.85
UV - K270
IOOC EVOO <= 0.22
U.S. EVOO: < 0.22
COOC: < 0.22
UV - Delta K
IOOC EVOO <= 0.01
U.S. EVOO: < +0.01
COOC: < 0.01
Once again, we are well within standards and part of the normal distribution of California EVOO. Although of course ours is a product of Oregon!
Why are phenols and their levels of interest? Two reasons, I think. The first can easily be seen in the wording of an abstract of an abstract of a book: Analytical determination of polyphenols in olive oil
"The increasing popularity of olive oil is mainly attributed to its high content of oleic acid, which may affect the plasma lipid/lipoprotein profiles, and its richness in phenolic compounds, which act as natural antioxidants and may contribute to the prevention of human disease."
The other reason: just like they may prolong our lives, they help prolong the shelf life of an olive oil. Here is Agbiolab's take on phenols .
Our Frantoio olive oil at time of testing was 317 gallic eq mg/kg, Unfortunately, there is a units conversion issue here, and the most that can be said is what Agbiolabs says:
"Total Phenol levels in virgin olive oil expressed as Gallic acid equivalent range in value from 50 to 800 mg/kg. Most oils have phenol levels around 180 mg/kg.".
So, 317 would seem to say that we are somewhere around the medium to robust end of flavor, however the oil did not seem to exhibit a much of bitterness and pungency. Maybe really high on freshness, which is the hardest attribute to come by (and most needed when you are in the game of making single varietal oils).
Ah well, a sensory evaluation test may well be better for that anyway. Got to leave something to do in the coming years of product development!
This is what the Frantoio oil looked like directly coming out of the horizontal centrifuge. At that very point, it looked like something special to me. Previous, I have mostly gotten what I trademarked as "Obsidian Green" olive oil, very dark stuff indeed. But this, this was a vibrant almost fluorescent emerald green.
Mar 10, 2015
Olive oil bottling is done
Our standard size bottles are 500 mL, 250 mL and 60 mL. This season's (2014 - 2015) harvest ended up filling 32,320 mL of bottles; or slightly more than 8 1/2 gallons.
We use clear glass for several reasons. First, people really want to see the color of the olive oil. Especially me! I am sort of amazed that the very first oil we made was also one that was yellow, not green (the grouping in the center - right below: Maurino). The second reason is - there is no good reason for us not to. Bigger producers have to worry about storing their holdover oil, potentially for years, and there is this strange fear people will keep their oil in sunlight (do you?); but neither of these are worries for us. This oil will be mostly distributed and gone within a few months. And I can assure you that any we hold onto will be stored in a cool and dark place...
Mar 10, 2015: even a modest production of oil takes a lot of glass!
Mar 15, 2015: The Ides of March
What is your most cold hardy olive tree?
I re-wrote this, to make it clearer. See Mar 25, 2015 for the re-write.
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Mar 16, 2015
First shipment, last 2014/2015 season harvest?
We had a big "Spring" windstorm a couple of days ago. Most of the remaining olives are abscising and dropping from the winds, but we did get out and harvest some Frantoio to ship to the first customer of the year, a customer that wants to make authentic Moroccan soap with fresh black olives. This is also the first time we have sold raw olives. And in March, to boot!
Mar 16, 2015: Kathy's Grove - just picked Frantoio olives
2015 clone names and clone games. In addition to collecting different cultivars from different countries, we also collect different clones from different suppliers. Interestingly, quite often we get different performance. For example, all of Picholine from Vendor B have abscised and dropped, but trees from vendor A still had a good crop hanging. Until we picked them today, of course!
And of course, we only sell the best clone of each cultivar that we have. Beware vendors who don't put this much attention into what they sell!
Mar 16, 2015: Reken Estate Picholine, pretty much dead ripe.
Mar 17, 2015
Curing some more Frantoio
We committed to deliver 4 pounds of ripe olives (see immediately below), and actually shipped 8 pounds. How's that for meeting commitments! Of course, as we get more experienced at this, reality and commitments will come closer in line.
Not wanting to waste the remainder, I decided to try a batch of Greek Style Black Olives. Normally I would consider Frantoio just a tinch to small for table olives, but since these are very close to physiologically mature and thus probably as big as they ever will get, I decided to give 'er a go.
Mar 17, 2015: a half gallon of Frantoio olives curing Greek-style Black Ripe --->
Mar 25, 2015
What is your most cold hardy olive tree?
A simple question I am asked a lot, but I am still not very sure of the answer! And of course my answer changes a little every year, as I gain more experience with olive trees. This years answer:
If you live in USDA Zone 9a or higher:
You don't have to much worry about the olive trees getting too cold, except maybe in those "worst in a lifetime" storms. Even traditional olive districts like Tuscany and the south of France get these storms, and they do a lot of damage. However, the most cost effective thing to do is to roll with the punches and ignore the problem. The olive trees will re-grow from their roots, and in a few years life will ,be good again; I would guess.
If you live in USDA Zone 8b (like we do: On the Edge!):
Of the cultivars I have had long term, from gut feel watching the trees live and die, I'd have to say Frantoio is one of the best bets for cold tolerance. In Italy, it is known as one of the two cold hardy "Super Tuscans", and is rapidly diffusing all over Italy because of it's value as a cold hardy olive oil tree (produces what is currently considered one of the best oils too). So that would be my top pick for you to try, if you live here in the northern Willamette Valley or in a similar climate..
My historical data requires some interpretation. Untangling the weather that the trees have gone through (i.e. when they were planted) is difficult. Not only that, but the data says more than anything (to me) that most cultivars become significantly cold hardier the older and bigger they get. From watching the trees over the years, I believe that. The best correlation to olive tree longevity I have is number of years in the ground. See June 14, 2014 to see this data:
And here is the data summary, see July 14, 2014:
Combining my personal observations with this data, I might say Frantoio, Carolea, Lucca, Taggiasca, Cailletier, Leccino (the other "super-Tuscan"), Grossane, Grignan, Luques, Saloneneque, Aglandau, Ascolano, Picholine and perhaps Amfissa are the most cold hardy here, in my current opinion. Carolea is currently my favorite tree to plant (very good cold weather tolerance and a decent size dual purpose olive, and a stiff upright tree which has one of the best possibilities for shaker harvest in the 10+ year future) especially since I already have a Tuscan olive grove. Caveat: with some of these cultivars my sample size is pretty small.
Of course, all these thoughts of mine applies to our land outside of Amity, Oregon; and it is unknown if you would get the same results, wherever you may be. That's why I have to have legal disclaimers on my olive tree sales page - no one knows because planting olive trees has basically never been done before where it is being done now!
If you live in USDA Zone 8a:
Yeeha! You are just Over The Cliff, and are going to struggle with olive tree cold death most every year unless you also supply added heat, in probably at least half the winters. If you want to experiment, regardless, I'd stick with my gut feel and you should probably stick with Frantoio. And you are definitely brave bold and daring! But if you really just need to give field planting a go, try Frantoio.
If you live in USDA Zone 7a - 7b:
In my opinion you are going to have to supply additional heat in the winter (most all winters). And here is the kicker. Since you will somehow have to give olive trees a heated place in your climate, you can grow most any cultivar! Since you are heating, you can control how cold the tree actually gets. Cold death is by far the only leading cause of death with our olive trees. Still, it might be valuable to plant only the cold hardiest cultivars, regardless, say to try to diminish tree deaths in case of heating failures.
If you live in USDA Zone 6a - 6b or lower:
If you live in USDA Zone 6a/6b or lower, so sorry, you are so cold you should probably not worry about olive tree cold hardiness, but instead worry about getting a backup heater (<grin>). And then plant whatever cultivar you think best suits your desires, in a pot or heat-able habitat.
03/15/05 Reken Estate; Five excellent Carolea olive trees all in a row: