Climate Change is Here

Following our growers meeting a few Saturdays ago, I had a discussion with friends about climate change and how it is affects our olive trees. As I am writing this blog, we are facing a fantastic olive bloom, and very heavy rain. As I cannot hold an umbrella over all of our 3000 trees, I am hoping that there is no hail with the heavy rain.

I drove home considering the pattern of olive set, the changing pattern of harvest dates, and how we have attempt to run an organic Farm in this a very active changing climate event.

I picked up my mail, chased away the deer eating my roses, and much to my interest, the current issue of MIT Review is dedicated to CLIMATE CHANGE.

In 2007, Jack Holden stated that we have basically three choices, mitigation, adaptation, and suffering. He was the Science Advisor to President Obama.

Holden says, “We may be too late.” I would encourage you to read the entire issue, MIT Review. Vol 122 No 3 May-June 2019, it is sobering. Gideon Lichfield, Editor in Chief begins his editorial, with Climate Change Affects Everyone. He means everyone, you, your children, your Uncle, your cousins your pets and wildlife. Your behavior affects each and every person.

When MIT magazine arrives, I always go to “The Back Page” of MIT Review because the magazine presents short interesting synopsis articles.

This issue, A Planetary Health Report Card by Rachel Cernansky, she states. “If we are going to cope with a changing climate and exploding global population, nearly everything about life needs to shift – including how people grow and eat food. That is the conclusion of the EAT- Lancet Commission, a group of scientists recommending a new approach for “planetary health.” We rated human progress to see how things are shaping up.

Healthy Diets from sustainable Food Systems by EAT – Lancet states that food will be the defining issue of the 21 Century. Anthropocene is a proposed new geological epoch that is characterized by humanity being the dominating force of change on the planet.

How does this affect us at IL Fiorello and all farmers in general? Let us discuss harvests, varieties, water, food and funding.

We have later harvests and suffer harvests that are more inconsistent. This means that we have more fluctuations in volume of the olive harvest.

Traditional olive varieties may not be the answer to this dilemma. It is very important to diversify in the Farm and to try to match the climate. We have planted Chemlali Olives from Tunisia that appear to be more tolerant to dry climates. They are doing very well for young trees. Time will tell.

Water. Be water wise. Use water well. Monitor your crop use. Do not just dig wells that succeeding in draining the aquifers.

We talk about food and the effect on people. B corporations focus on people, planet and profit. Slow Food is good clean and fair. The result is that we are finally bringing to the forefront the huge issues that man has created on Earth. Do not waste food.

We need to use public funding and industrial policies need to take on climate change, as governments are and have been unable to effect such a change.

Be wise, BE careful with your resources, and be aware that climate change is real.

Very real.


For your additional reading:
Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission
MIT Review. Vol 122 No 3 May-June 2019


A Professor of Food Marketing in Philadelphia, John Stanton PhD, says Food is Love Not Medicine. Why do packages promote cures and not deliciousness and emotion? We are all about deliciousness at IL Fiorello.  

“Taste is another leading reason to buy food. Another reason is that it makes me feel good about eating and serving food with and to family and friends.” Stanton is so correct.

Food and meal preparation are ways that most societies show love, respect and nurturing, especially among family members. He says “think of how we celebrate life’s great events, marriages are followed by a meal, deaths usually with a wake with lots of food. People who are dating usually go out to dinner. Religious ceremonies often involve meals. Proms have meals. Many people celebrate anniversaries with romantic meals together. Food and meals are an essential aspect of life.”

At IL Fiorello, we celebrate what we grow by serving great oils and tasty foods. We love to engage in conversations about our oils and what we grow on our Farm. We love to show guests our gardens, groves, and yes our “girls” our chickens.

This connects us together, it is enjoyment and love.

On Mother’s Day weekend we will be honoring Mothers with a tea. But what a tea; with cakes, and

A fantastic constructed cheese tower, and flowers and fun.  

Wear your fantastic hats and come out and enjoy the flowers.

A sweet gift for husbands to give their wives, for daughters to come with their Mom’s, for sons to enjoy a meal with their wives and Mom’s. Maybe Mothers to be. Or, Mom’s to give to daughters for a special love. I have two daughters and I wish they could be with me at this special and fun event. All are welcome. Last year we had a darling youngster who saved her babysitting money and brought her Mom to the celebration. Very special.

Dad’s weekend is special also. We have a great Grilling Cooking Class that is all about Dad’s and food. Saturday, June 15.

You do not need a reason to eat and enjoy together, but this is a good reason to relax and enjoy each other.

May 11 Saturday, from NOON to 3 pm.

Tickets on sale at IL Fiorello.


April showers bring May flowers, and weeds, and more weeds.

Organic gardening is our goal, but oh dear, the weeds. It is a continuing battle. There are good weeds, and then there are bad weeds. It is a long story about land and weeds.
Organic farming is expensive. Expensive is labor costs, and achieving our organic license. But sustainability and land stewardship are central to our goal.

Organic compost helps the land. Our focus this month, really in truth all year, is the organic compost we make to help the trees and give back to the land. Our property was never farmed, and lay fallow for years and years. We began with a D-9 CAT “ripping” to 9 feet to till the land properly before we planted any trees. This process allowed us to inspect the land, make sure there were no sinkholes, or garbage dumps. It allowed the land to really show itself: soil composition, water flow, and drainage. It allowed us to do soil samples from various parts of the property. It allowed us to understand and help set the tenor of the land, the earth, that was to hold our new trees and our vision.

I am very glad that we were able to do this to begin to properly understand this parcel of land. We saw the high areas, the water flow, and the low spots. I got the tractor stuck halfway out in the grove in an unexpected low spot. Embarrassing, but I learned where we had to move dirt to support our planting. But mud is mud, and during heavy rains, I have proven that we can get stuck even now.

Our plan for the grove was to plant trees in a more natural spacing. Our grove is 12 by 18 to allow growth of the roots, and have room for harvesting and good land management. We are much more interested in quality of our oil, not necessarily quantity. This gives the trees room to grow, the roots to spread, and allow birds to more naturally nest. It is a gift to find many nests in the grove during harvest, knowing that the birds enjoy and thrive on our farm.

We are also considering sheep, goats, and geese, to weed and keep the farm clean. This becomes truly a labor of love to support our biodiverse organic farm.

April means Eggs, Eggs and more Eggs, Easter Sunday, and our Egg Class in the Kitchen in the Grove on April 27th. The chickens are so happy when we weed as they get great juicy greens. It is hilarious to hear them “talk” to each other when we bring weeds. Our big rooster, Foghorn Leghorn (he is an olive egger) climbs up the box near the entrance door and peeks out when anyone comes near. He is the sentinel, the “alert bird”. Then the flock comes running. Have you ever seen a chicken run? Pretty funny.

Green eggs, white eggs, brown eggs, speckled eggs, little ones, big ones, all fresh and delicious.

In the Kitchen in the Grove, we are planning the class, “It’s All About Eggs”. Everyone can fry an egg, but what about gently poaching an egg in olive oil? You will be able to taste this treat at our class.

We invite you to come to our Farm. Enjoy a tour, view our garden, talk to the chicken girls, and enjoy the bounty of an organic farm. From dirt, and seeds, to delicious vegetables, perfectly prepared in our Kitchen in the Grove.




Warm, delicious, versatile, easy to make, plays well with most foods.  Comfort food on a rainy afternoon, or for breakfast, as you see fit.  Stop buying prepackaged bread, try this yourself.  It is fun, and happy, and delicious.  I love the aroma of the yeast rising.  When I was making this focaccia, my entire staff did not leave the kitchen until we served huge slices.  There is a very good side to working at IL Fiorello, Kitchen in the Grove.  What is the song…Food, glorious food.

Paired with a favorite topping, this is a very versatile bread.  With the instant rise yeast packets, I can walk in the house, make the dough, feed the cats, change my clothes, pour a glass of wine, and the dough will be ready to shape and bake.  It really is as easy as that.

If you do not eat all the focaccia (really?), you can save some for sandwiches the next day.  Just slice the focaccia in half, and layer delicious treats of cheese, meats, and vegetables.  Even kids love this for school lunches.



2 cups AP flour & 2 cups 00 flour (fine grind)

 Or 4 cups AP flour

2 packets instant rise yeast (make sure the date is fresh)

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

  • ½ cups water (warm) about 165 °

Additional extra virgin olive oil for the bowl and for the topping, about 1/3 cup in total

For the topping

                Sea salt or your best coarse salt

                Olive oil


A list of alternative toppings follow the recipe.


  1. Place flour in the bowl of a food processor or Cuisinart
  2. Add the yeast
  3. Add the salt
  4. Add the sugar
  5. Turn the machine on low and slowly add the warm water.
  6. Combine until all is well mixed and begins to form a ball.
  7. Remove from the bowl and knead the dough until it is silky and soft.
  8. Place in a bowl that is well oiled so the dough will not stick.
  9. Cover with a towel and place in a warm draft free spot.
  10. Allow to rise until doubled about 1 hour.
  11. Punch down and roll out to a sheet pan or cookie pan.
  12. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again about 30 minutes
  13. Using your knuckles punch down again, making depressions in the dough.
  14. Fill the little depressions with olive oil
  15. Sprinkle with sea salt
  16. Bake at 375 F ° for about 30 -40 minutes
  17. Serve warm from the oven with more olive oil.


During rising, place the bowl in the front seat of your warm car.  No drafts and a lovely way to make your car smell like fresh risen bread.

In very dry areas, like California, you may need to add extra water to make the dough resilient, and for the flour to come together.


  1. Sprinkle the warm bread with shaved chocolate and allow the chocolate to melt and become one with the oil.
  2. Sprinkle with fresh herbs
  3. Sauté mushrooms
  4. Sun dried tomatoes
  5. Grated parmesan
  6. Add cooked bacon bits to your dough before baking
  7. Add fresh rosemary to your dough before baking 2-3 teaspoons chopped.

Ann’s favorite

I love a fig and prosciutto topping.

Justin, our Sous Chef’s favorite

Add an apple and cinnamon topping to your bacon focaccia.

Finished with sea salt, more oil, and chocolate.  Decadent and delicious

MARCH 2019

In like a lion and out like a lamb, or this year in like a lamb and out like a lion. Either way, Lake Berryessa is full and we will have water for irrigation beginning in April. That is impressive given the last few years of drought.  Each year is different, and a lesson in farming is that each new year holds opportunities and challenges.  

March heralds Spring. Time change; Spring Forward. More light and lovely Spring evenings to enjoy; Spring greens from the garden.  Also, the Sievers’ Birthdays. LET’S CELEBRATE !

Irish cooking classes and Irish celebrations. Lots of fun and great eating in our Irish Cooking class. We had a little nip of the Irish favorite, Guinness after the class. And some Irish coffee before the class. Surprises all around.  Learning, eating, and enjoying is a great way to celebrate with friends.

In the olive grove, the trees are trying to begin to set their bloom.  This is the first harbinger of our olive crop for this year. We wish for a little rain, no hail and no strong winds. But in Suisun Valley the wind is always in our favor as our olives are wind pollinated and our main pollinator is the Pendolino Variety.

 We expect our bees to return next month to enjoy the blossoms, but they do not have a large role in pollination of the trees.  Bees are important on a bio-diverse farm, and they love our lavender.  We have honey for sale in our retail room.

In the gardens, all our spring onions, new lettuce, radishes and kale are already on our tasting plates at the Visitor Center. Tender and delicious, the Chefs love this bounty from the garden. Nick has started seeds for tomatoes, cucumbers, and the 100 other seeds that we have ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds.

It is an explosion of flavors and colors from the garden.

The chickens are drying out after such a wet February. They are still producing lots of eggs, and we all look forward to our egg class in April: It’s All About Eggs. Poached, Fried, Soufflé, Frittatas…lots to discuss in the egg class. Lots of delicious foods to cook and eat together.

We will have green eggs and ham if I have any say in the menu.




Athena: The Greek goddess of oil, peace & war, also the daughter of Zeus.

Athens, the capitol of Greece is named after the Goddess Athena; she is the goddess of Wisdom and War. She is known for her strategic skill in warfare, is often portrayed as a companion of heroes, and is the patron goddess of heroic endeavor.  Athena was born from Zeus after he experienced an enormous headache, and she sprang fully-grown and in full armor from his forehead.

Athena serves as a guardian of Athens, where the Parthenon serves as her temple. The olive trees on the Acropolis remain a symbol of Athena’s work.

The owl was her bird, and the olive tree was hers to protect.  We have owls at IL Fiorello to watch over the farm.

Wielding wisk and ladle, pots and pans, hair blowing in the wind, our beautiful weathervane by Phil Glasshoff is also named Athena.  She is the symbol of our cooking school, the Kitchen in the Grove, and she points our way forward into the Suisun wind.

We named our award-winning oil, Athena’s Blend, to honor her history, a heroic endeavor.   This oil is a field blend of Frantoio, Leccino, and Pendolino. We harvest the olives by hand. We mill the oil with great care, and with strict temperature and time controls, to protect the flavor of the oil.  We store the oil in a dark temperature-controlled room, and cover it with an inert gas to prevent oxidation.  We do just-in-time bottling to ensure the freshness of each bottle. Athena’s Blend is one of our most highly awarded olive oils.

The flavor profile

                Frantoio – Bold and pungent

                Leccino – Luscious with a velvety texture

                Pendolino – Green and herbaceous

We enter olive oil competitions to benchmark our oils, to make sure that we are presenting the very best oils in the world to our guests.  We are named by the New York competition as one of the world’s best olive oils. The 2017 harvest of Athena’s Blend won the following medals in six competitions.  

Japan International competition – Gold

New York International competition – Gold

LA International Competition – Bronze

Yolo California competition – Bronze

Napa California Competition –Best of Show, Best of Class & Gold

State Fair California – Silver

Our 2018 harvest was devastatingly small, an 80% reduction in crop size; so, we did not harvest our Athena’s Blend.  Rather, we allowed the trees to rest and recuperate from the 2017 harvest and heavy pruning.  Next year will be better. Farming is interesting and humbling.

Please enjoy our Athena’s Blend; it is one of the best in the world.




Olive Oil is good for you. Olive Oil is delicious. Olive Oil plays well with other food.

Choose your food. Choose the oil you love with that good food.

Eat lots of vegetables and whole grains.

Eat a balanced diet.

Do not follow food fads.

Walk during the day.

No surprises, this is better health and happiness.

Recipes that will make you feel better.

Spring Asparagus with Pendolino Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olives & Beans

Black & green olives and cannellini beans on warm rustic ciabatta bread.

Served with Athena’s Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a little fresh garlic.

Vegetable Wraps

Just the way Chef Gloria loves to present good food. Delicious and beautiful

Tuna and Frantoio

Simple beautiful tuna from Real Good Fish, Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil and fresh lemon.

Balance and simplicity

I would be remiss if I did not mention great dark chocolate and olive oil and red wine.

Come to our Visitors Center. Everyone who tastes our wine gets a treasure of dark chocolate made with Frantoio olive oil. Surprise. Chocolate, Frantoio Olive and Red Wine. Great for your health and wellbeing.



That is the question.

The answer is:  PRUNE

Olive trees are sturdy and resilient.

An beautiful Italian saying “Prune your olive trees so that a swallow can fly through without touching its wings”

This beautiful saying gives the olive grower a visual target for pruning.

Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing, Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, CSIRO Publishing 2004

Here are some tips for pruning

  1. Lift the trees’ skirts. Keep the branches from touching the ground
  2. Bring the tops down to harvest height – you prune to harvest. Mark says you do not want to harvest by helicopter.
  3. Clean the inside and all dead wood from all the branches.
  4. Take off all old fruit – called mummies – that were not harvested last year. They are a harbor for the olive fruit fly.
  5. The goal is to help shape the tree into a goblet or vase shape.
  6. Prune to allow wind and sunlight into the center of the tree, to prevent mold, scale and mildew.
  7. Feed your trees.
  8. Always prune suckers that arise from the base of the trunk
  9. Prune only 1/3 of the tree each year.
  10. Remember that olive fruit grows on second year growth in the presence of sunlight.
  11. Olives are alternate bearing; so plan your heavy pruning after a heavy harvest. Conversely light prune after a light crop. This helps to try to equalize your production over the years.

 If you have enough volume, have your olive oil certified, both by chemistry and by sensory analysis. The results will help you understand your crop, the right harvest conditions, and the oils characteristic over time.

Don’t forget to spray for Olive Fruit Fly. Spray weekly, from pit hardening in the spring to about two weeks before harvest.


  1. Pruning and Training Systems for Modern Olive Growing, Riccardo Gucci and Claudio Cantini, CSIRO Publishing 2004.
  2. Olive Growing, Ed. D. Barranco, R. Fernandex-Escobar, L. Rallo, Gruppo Mundi-Prensa 2010.
  3. Olive Production Manual , Ed. G Steven Sibbett, Louise Ferguson, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2004.

Valentine’s Day


A special day you care for people that you love.

A Valentine’s Dinner Recipe

Serves 2 from the heart

1 cup cooked pasta, whole grain organic elbow pasta from BAIA

1 cup cooked little white beans (any beans will do but cannellini is best)

1 cup organic crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if you like, for garnish

2 tablespoons Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil for finishing the dish


Heat all the ingredients till piping hot

Combine each of the ingredients

Serve in beautiful bowls

Garnish with cheese, red pepper flakes and Frantoio Oil


Delicious, warm, heart healthy, simple and perfect for a rainy night.


Light a candle at table

Finish with a little bit of really great dark chocolate.





Everything Citrus

Our citrus trees are in full production and we use all the citrus in Kitchen in the Grove. Endless uses for our fruit; marmalade, candied fruit, soups and flavorings, and plenty of eating. There is a lot of citrus on our tasting plates in the Visitor Center these days. Citrus represents a major component of the flavor profile for this month.


 We are featuring citrus co-milled oils, lime, lemon, mandarin. We even made a kaffir lime oil this year.

We are serving Citrus Mostarda’s as a Chefs Sampler in the Kitchen.

Making Co-Milled Oils

Co-milling means we mill olives and citrus together. It all goes through the entire process simultaneously, from cutting, washing, grinding, malaxing and passing through the centrifuge all at the same time.  The result is beautiful co-milled award winning oils. The balance differs each year depending on the variety of olive, the maturity and the sweetness of the citrus fruit.

The Origin of Citrus Fruit

A DNA study published in Nature in 2018 concludes that citrus trees originated in the foothills of the Himalayas, in the area of Assam (India), western Yunnan (China), and northern Myanmar.

The three original species in the citrus genus that have been hybridized into most modern commercial citrus fruit are the mandarin orange, pomelo, and citron Within the last few thousand years, all common citrus fruits (sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and so on) were created by crossing those original species.

Most citrus comes from China. Some of the new DNA studies are able to locate their origins. Some researchers believed that it had originated in Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia and then made its way to the US via of China. It is also thought that citrus has been cultivated for over 4000 years.

And I thought that olives were old!

Here is a fun recipe for spicing up winter meals

Whole Lemon Dressing

“When life gives you lemons make a great dressing”

1 organic Meyer or Eureka lemon

3/4 cup Athena’s Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, Maldon

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper, Tellecherry


Cut the lemon into 4-6 pieces

Place in blender

Slowly add the olive oil while the blender is running

Add the spices, as you desire, just before the dressing is finished

Blend until just smooth

Use immediately or refrigerate for only a day


Optional ingredients:

Fresh herbs:  thyme, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, oregano or even cooked asparagus

Sweetener: honey to balance the tartness of the lemons

Fresh or roasted garlic

Anchovies, My personal favorite

IL Fiorello Spicy Lavender Mustard

Chef’s Note:

Meyer lemons are sweeter, Eureka Lemons are more tart and brilliant tasting

Try both and compare the taste

Serving Suggestions

Salads, Fish, Roast Pork, all vegetables

Watch Our Video

Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.



Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.


Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.


Custom Milling

Bring us your olives to be crushed in our state of the art Italian mill.



Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.


Il Fiorello Blog

Keeping you up to date on all things olive and olive oil.