The health benefits of a Mediterranean diet — one that is rich in extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) — are well documented. So too, are the efforts to pass off inferior olive oil as extra virgin, a practice that dates back to the heyday of the Roman Empire. Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, depicts in great detail the sophisticated techniques for adulterating pure olive oil with inferior oils and chemicals in an effort to disguise the taste and to achieve staggering profits.
Determining which EVOO is ‘true’ olive oil and which has been tampered with is nearly impossible, even for experts. So what chance does the average consumer have in selecting a quality EVOO from a dizzying array of ‘100%’ olive oils on the grocer’s shelf? An even better question might be, “How old is the oil in the bottle I’m buying?” Research has shown that freshly pressed olio nuovo (the oil derived from newly harvested olives, and literally means ‘new this year’) delivers the greatest health benefits possible, and that these benefits are lost as the oil ages.
Fortunately for shoppers at the MBCFM markets, the answers to both questions are easily answered. Belle Farms of Watsonville and Valencia Creek Farms of Aptos offer premium quality, locally grown, 2015 olio nuovo in limited quantities.
Marguerite Remde of Belle Farms and Chris Banthien of Valencia Creek farms have well-established olive groves that produce the freshest, best tasting olive oils available.
“We have to time our harvest just right so the olives get pressed as soon as possible,” explained Marguerite recently. “We have to make sure we have the crew and the time at the olive press all lined up beforehand, and of course the weather has to cooperate.”
Olive oil aficionados eagerly anticipate the annual pressing of olives because the taste of high quality olio nuovo is intensely exquisite. Unlike wine, olive oil’s peak flavor is while it’s freshest. The 2015 crop does not disappoint.
“Adding freshly pressed olio nuovo to a salad or drizzling it over vegetables is an very easy way to enjoy it,” says Marguerite. Chris agrees. “The gift of freshly pressed olive oil is very special. The taste is out of this world, and the health benefits are unbeatable.”
Both growers received ‘Farmer of the Year’ awards this past summer from the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. When you visit their booths at the market, you’re speaking directly with the growers. They offer samples of their olio nuovo as well as recipe suggestions.
Olive oil from the Monterey Bay area is authentic, delicious, and good for you. What more could you ask for in a holiday gift? Chris and Marguerite offer various size bottles of this year’s olive oil that are sure to fit most budgets. Just be sure to save some for yourself.