At The Farm/ Health

The Perilous Journey for Pure Olive Oil

The Perilous Journey for Pure Olive Oil

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You can’t miss Don Nina’s olive table at the Alamo’s Farmer’s Market, it is bright yellow, and adorned with a picture of his olive orchard. He is a local olive farm owner and producer. His smile is warm and friendly, and he spends his day here educating people about his passion, high quality olive oil. The bottles of deeply colored olive oils with a distinctive bottle and label, might be mistaken for bottles of rare champagne. Don stands behind his olive oil, because he is the grower and producer, and oversees the process from start to finish. There is even a chemical purity license that is framed on his table, and he advises, “Any olive grower should be willing to show you their olive oil testing results.” Don is an advocate for quality olive oil, and he is passionate about it. He has tended his olive orchard for the past 18 years. “Their trunks are this wide” he gestures with his hand three feet apart. “And when we started, they were only 4 inches, imported from Italy.” Don warns me that if I am buying olive oil at the grocery store, it carries the risk of being impure and possibly, very little olive oil. Olive oil because it is in such demand over other oils, has become a commodity that is fraught with fraud. “Have you read ‘Slippery Business’ in the New Yorker?” This is an investigative journal article, which describes how oil, very crude oil, of the non olive variety, from northern Africa, may be labeled ‘Product of Italy” if it spends enough time in an Italian port. This is how big name brand labels were reaping huge profits, by relabeling impure oils and “cutting” the impure oils with even more unrelated oils. Due to the high cost point of olive oil, this oil cutting was making some so called olive oil manufacturers very wealthy. “Know your olive oil grower” would be Don’s advice. I ran a few names of family farm olive growers in Sacramento and Don recognized them immediately. “Those are good oils,” he says smiling; he knows many of our local growers. Don’s opinions about the olive oil business are also reiterated with our local UC Davis Olive Center who recommends consumers buy domestic, not only for more reliable purity reasons but also for freshness. Their studies have shown that the majority of imported oils may already be rancid, forming free radicals and will be missing the very ingredients consumers are paying for – antioxidants. Don handed me a small slice of bread, and poured golden green liquid from the bottle on the table of “a finishing oil” to be poured over fish or pasta, enjoyed for its flavor. This type of oil was meant to be taken straight from the bottle, and believe me, it was. Cheers, to the next sip of local, small family farm pressed olive oil you find at your local farmer’s market.

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