Culture and History

Athena’s Blend Gold Medal Award Winning Olive Oil

We named the best oil of this year Athena’s Blend. It received a Gold Medal at the prestigious New York International Olive Oil Competition, and was named as one of the best olive oils in the world. Athena’s Blend, grown by our Chef Marvin Martin, and milled at IL Fiorello will be available soon.

Olive oil culture is centuries old and rooted in the Mediterranean region. It is an indispensable ingredient at any good table. This magical tree, is the symbol of the Mediterranean culture, the centerpiece of gastronomy and health.

In Greek mythology, Poseidon, God of the Sea, and Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War, both aspired to lend their name to the fledgling city of Athens.

Zeus, King of the Gods, in Greek mythology, decided that the honor would go to the one who created the most useful gift for Mankind. Poseidon drove his trident into the earth, from which emerged a spirited horse.

Athena drove her spear into a rock from which an olive tree grew. “Not only would their fruits be edible, but from them an extraordinary liquid would be obtained that would serve as food for man, relief for his wounds and strength for his body.”

Athena won the contest as the olive tree would bring peace and prosperity. A symbol of peace, abundance, victory and life.

Enjoy Athena’s Blend in good health.

athena_poseidon_kekrop

Blog Sustainability Part 2

What we do with and for the land at IL Fiorello

We compost on site and that includes all the olive tree pruning, the material other than oil after milling olives, kitchen byproducts, and manure from local horse farms. The mass is composted all year long and then put on the Grove just after harvest and before the rain begins. The trees respond immediately with solid growth.compost copy

The bees on site belong to our beekeeper, Brittany Dye, Ms. Honey Bees, and her boss, Rick Schubert. They are using our land for queen bee propagation from April until June. The queens are sold to start new hives. We have assisted them by planting wildflowers for bee food. Bees can fly over 3 miles to forage and right now there is lots of food for them. They seem to like our olive blossoms, but do not participate in pollinating the olives. Olives are pollinated by wind. bee

About 85% of incoming olives become a usable by-product once the oil is extracted.  Only 15% of the mass produces olive oil. The material other than olives- the water, the skins, the tissue, and the pits are all used. Everything but the pits go into compost. The pits are placed around the new little olives trees for weed prevention. We distribute the pits around the organic garden as walkways. The pits can also be used in bio fuel generation to produce energy. More on this very exciting topic in future blogs.

Rodents are an issue on a farm and we have four owl boxes on site. Last year they hatched three baby Barn Owls, Olive, Olivia, and Oliver. They were huge and probably ate lots of gophers, moles and voles. This year there is another hatching, but we have not seen them yet. You can hear them hissing and screeching at night. Quite the sound. Looking at their owl pellets they too are eating the moles and voles.  We do plan to help bats by placing bat boxes on property. It is on the long list of very important things to do.

Sustainability and bio-diversity drive our Farm and our farming practices. Come talk with us about this wonderful process.

Sustainability Blog Part 1

Il Fiorello is working hard to be sustainable.  We believe that good stewardship of our land and our trees is very important. Although we have just submitted paperwork for the formal organic license, we have been growing organically and sustainably for the past four years. Our Mill has been certified to mill organic olives for over 5 years. In our tours we always discuss how important it is to be good to the land and then reap the benefits in great fruit and healthy trees. We also discuss how we grow and care for the trees.  Biodiversity on our property gives us a balance. Biodiversity is critical in a balanced farm and we grow olives, citrus, tend an organic culinary garden, figs, lavender, and plant flowers for the bees. All these plants encourage wildlife.

So what makes us say we are sustainable? First, sustainable agriculture is defined as environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. These are also the goals of Slow Food International: Good, Clean and Fair. The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at UC Davis has an excellent position statement on the concept of sustainable agriculture.

Let me take you on a tour of our beliefs.photo 2 copy

Last year we made a significant commitment to solar energy production. Our home, the Visitor Center, and our milling barn all are solar supported. We are thankful to be able to use this fabulous source of energy. The solar savings are significant. Watching the Visitor Center solar counter run gives all of us great satisfaction. Our Milling Barn is also very well insulated to protect the oils and the machines. Our eight stainless steel oil storage tanks are well insulated and cooled.

Water management in this drought is so extremely important. We use only drip irrigation, from April to October, then we pray for rain. We have an onsite monitoring system that measures depth of soil moisture content at one, two, three, and four feet. This corresponds to olive root depth. We also take into account temperature, evapotranspiration, and wind effect. Olives close the pores of their leaves in high temperatures and hot winds, a lifesaving characteristic. They are drought tolerant but our little trees need some help. During milling water conservation is important and our centrifuges operate with little water in a very efficient manner. We actually may use more water for cleaning the mill than in the process of making oil.

To feed the trees we use a technique called fertigation, irrigate and feed at the same time. Dual purpose and efficient. We use an organic kelp fertilizer and do tissue, leaf, and soil samples to guide our applications.

Our commercial water treatment plant converts available waste water from milling and from the Visitors Center to usable water that is shifted to the groves.

At Il Fiorello we actively practice sustainable agriculture. Stewardship of our land and trees is very important to us and will remain a central theme of our business.

Olive Oil Production By-Product for Food

Potential Use of Olive Oil Waste for Novel Food Product Development Dr. Y. Olive Li College of Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona

Authors: Ann Sievers Owner IL Fiorello Olive Oil Co and Dr. Y. Olive Li College of Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona

Did you know that 35 lbs. to 40 lbs. of olives (depending on the variety) makes about a liter of olive oil? The product is very dear and very expensive. Also it is very good for you. If you find an inexpensive oil it probably is not olive oil, but a mixture of vegetable oil (highly refined by chemicals and heat) and olive oil. Look for the third party certification in California olive oils to insure quality.

pits
Another huge issue for olive millers is the environmental burden of olive waste. This is the post production material. Approximately 80% to 85% of the olive is post extraction residue which includes pits (wood kernels), olive skin, tissue of the olive, and water. So the question becomes what to do with this product.

Dr. Y. Olive Li, a Professor at Cal Poly Pomona, may have a very interesting answer. Dr. Li is in the Department of Human Nutrition and Food Science, College of Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona. Her research is sponsored by Cal Poly Pomona ARI Research Grant (2014, #003570) and a SCIFTS Education and Research Grant (2014). She and her colleagues (see attached poster presentation for reference) analyzed the post-extraction olive pomace. It is rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, antioxidants, dietary fibers and protein. Sounds like a great product. She says this is a very promising source of various nutraceuticals for development of novel functional foods.

Dr. Olive Li visited IL Fiorello, white coat flying in the wind, with enough energy to run our solar power system by herself. Her goal was to reach deep into the olive waste pomace to get truly good samples. Our goal was not to let her fall in given her enthusiasm! We had a marvelous day talking about human nutrition, milling olives, and how the machines to extract oil actually work. She is a fountain of information and energy.

Dr. Li and her team undertook an exploration of how to use this byproduct by incorporating olive pomace in cereal grain flours. The goal was to convert the wet pomace to a shelf-stable powder ingredient that can be incorporated with other grains to be used for staple foods such as pasta and bakery goods. The final product has a higher nutrient content than just single grain products. Maybe the use of olive by-products in human nutrition can be a multi-level solution for improved human nutrition, (and animals), and assist with environmental concerns.

In the sensory tests, all the different cereal products combined with the olive pomace resulted in acceptable pasta products, and the whole wheat formulation was the most preferred by the sensory panel.

The olive industry will definitely benefit from her research. Il Fiorello benefits by providing pomace for her research and knowing that great things will come from our collaboration. Maybe we will be able to serve pasta, made with our by-products, and finish it with our oils, a complete presentation.

See the Dr Li poster presentation here.

What’s the Buzz at Il Fiorello!

 

QUEEN BEES AT IL Fiorello

Rick Schubert of Bee Happy Apiaries and Ms. Brittany Dye, Ms. Queen Bee, have honored us with Queens. We should all be wearing crowns in honor of our most royal guests.
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We have 1144 queens in 286 nuc boxes, meaning the Queens are in their own boxes four to a box with their colony surrounding them. The bee hives are all different colors for identification of who owns the bees, what size is the box, and light colors for heat reflection. Some bee keepers paint their hives with letters and pictures for fun and to help the bees identify their home, like little different landing pads. Brittany tells me these bees’ ancestors are originally from Iran, named Carnolian bees. They are known to be gentle and produce tasty honey. These bees are here for Queen propagation, not honey. But lots of honey is coming in the next stage.

This is just an amazing opportunity to see nature at work. It is so fun to watch the dance of the bees.

Come on over and taste olive oils, wines, and see the bees. What an extraordinary experience. We will be having bee classes when all the buzzing settles down. Brittany will teach us all about bees, and Sue Langstaff, Applied Sensory Co. will buzz us through the UC Davis Honey wheel and a sweet honey taste extravaganza.

bees04HOLY BEES KNEES!

Watch for updates on our Facebook page for the latest buzz. We will be posting pictures as the bees grow and the Queens become royal members at IL Fiorello.

 

 

 

 

 

TO PRUNE OR NOT TO PRUNE OR HOW TO PRUNE

Pruning olive trees is an art, an acquired and learned art.  Each and every person who prunes trees has their own best way, and of course it works for them. Consult an expert to help you get started or have them prune your whole grove with you. But here is some basic guidance on pruning.

Prune in the spring after the danger of frost is over, or we hope it is over.

An Italian saying is that “you should prune an olive tree so that a swallow can fly through without touching its wings”.  The inside of the tree must have sun and air to prevent the branches from harboring mold and scale.

Prune from the top down or the bottom up. Either way, prune so there are no branches touching the ground, and prune so that you can reach the top without using extra high ladders.  Prune so that you can reach the top of the tree while spraying for olive fly. If you have a 30 foot tree and spray from the ground for olive fly you will not reach the top olives and your spraying will be ineffective.

Remember that every branch that produced olives this year will not produce again. So protect the offshoots that will bear olives for the coming year.  An off shoot is the perpendicular sprout from a main branch.  A few other tips:

  • Only prune less than 1/3 of any tree each year.
  • Cut out the wispy inside branches that are counterproductive to fruit production. Clear the inside of the tree so light and wind reaches the center of the tree.
  • Prune the crossing branches so as to prevent rubbing and injury to the branch. Your goal is to have three to five main branches from the main trunk.
  • Keep your shears clean especially if you have any olive knot on older trees. This prevents contamination to other trees in the grove.
  • Keep your shears clean and lubricated to help protect your hand function. Carpel tunnel syndrome or just plain aching hands is not fun.
  • Feed the trees in the spring after pruning.

If you are unsure, always consult an expert, someone who has years of experience and is willing to teach you their art and craft.

before and after pruning

The Health Blog

HEALTH AND OLIVE OIL

Recently two articles have garnered the intense interest of the public. A dietary recommendations article and an article on cancer. Both having to do in part with olive oil. First and foremost, human nutrition is very complicated, and it is a very difficult research to undertake. Let me briefly tell you about each article and its potential impact on health. Following my 35 year career in health care and oncology, I find these publications of particular interest in the business I am now running, producing really good olive oil and utilizing sustainable agriculture.

avo

FATS

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

This group has recently published a document about the amount and type of fats each person should eat. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee with the Health and Human Services Department have changed some of the fat requirement amounts that are allowed. In discussions with a dietician colleague, she says to remember that “fat is your friend”.   Although fat often gets a bad rap, it is one of the essential elements in the human diet dedicated to providing energy  and fuel for the body.

Here are my comments:
Comment number 1: They are still saying total fat should be lower. Unsaturated fats, in our case Olive Oil, is still preferential to saturated fats (animal fat).

Comment number 2: They are still saying that processed,precooked, and packaged foods are BAD. They are much too high in saturated fats (bad fats), salt, and sugars.

Comment number 3: Cook good food and eat food with color such as dark green, bright orange, and yellow; NOT just white food.

Comment number 4: Eat more vegetables and fruits than meats and seafood.

Comment number 5: It is all in the balance.  Th “Mediterranean diet” (or as I like to call it, a subsistence diet) is a plant based diet that is balanced with good lean protein in small amounts and real extra virgin olive oil.  This coupled with exercise creates a healthy balance.

Remember, human nutrition is very complicated.

 CANCER

In a recent article out of Australia by authors, LeGend, Breslin, and Fostera that was posted online Jan 2015, in the journal, Molecular and Cellular Oncology, the authors state that  oleocanthal, a chemical found in olive oil, will kill cancer cells. Oleocanthal rapidly and selectively induces cancer cell death via lysosomal membrane permeabilization. (LMP).

This is NOT a human nutrition research study. This is a study of human cancer cell lines in the lab. This is a bench lab study. But indeed, the results are very interesting and promising.

The take home message is not to take this interesting research out of context. Cancer research is very complicated and may take 5-10 years to even begin to do human studies.

The bottom line is:

Remember, cancer research is very complicated.

Remember, human nutrition is very complicated.

These articles stand on their own scientific merit, and science is always evolving, changing, and gathering more data.

Celebrate Citrus

Our citrus trees have finally made a wonderful comeback. They are producing large, no huge, quantities of fruit. Last year, the frost of December 7, 2103 destroyed the plants. I, in my way of trying to take care of everything, wanted to prune the dead branches right away. But I was persuaded to wait until mid-March 2014. Thank you to friends who are master gardeners who advised me to wait. Not pruning right away, the dead wood protected the remaining tree from further frost damage. We fed, weeded, watched, and hoped. And we were rewarded. This abundant harvest provided lemons and oranges for our co-milled oils. Delicious. We have more than enough fruit for a great citrus class on Saturday, March 14. We use the fruit in our flavored water. We eat oranges for snacks each day, we are all much healthier.citrus4

Celebrate citrus! Our trees are flowering right now, and the olives are right behind. Come look at our citrus grove and the 23 varieties. Sweet Meiwa (Hawaiian) kumquats, fingerling limes and Rangpur limes. Thanks also to Molly Chappallet, the owner of Chappallet Vineyards, for the addition of a huge bag of Rangpur limes so we can make lime marmalade. Our Kaffir lime, has a double leaf used in cooking Asian and Indian dishes, and delicious fruit. The Seville Sour Oranges make great English marmalade. The variegated lemons are pink on the inside, and make delicious lemonade. Our pomelo tree is just loaded with blossoms, all fuzzy and green. We are using the huge pomelo fruit in the tasting room for a palate cleanser. The menu at Yotam Ottolenghi’s new restaurant will feature pan-fried prawns with pomelo, pickled endive and garlic crisps and tamarind dressing. Get his books, Plenty and Plenty More, they are wonderful reads and super flavorful foods. Great fun.

Come over and have a look and learn about Citrus. We are very lucky to live in California.

Planting in the Garden

beeEverything seems early again this year. We are responding to Mother Nature’s calls of Spring even though it is only February. I feel sorry for my friends back East in all the cold and snow. I hope this blog gives them hope for planting.

Everyone has spring fever here at IL Fiorello. We are busy getting the garden going again and redoing the herb garden to supply our culinary classes. Pruning in the groves is ongoing and is the topic of a future blog.

The garden beds are being filled with rich compost and seeds are flying around as staff members  share planting ideas. So far we have in the ground: cabbage, radishes (both red and white), beets, lettuce (five kinds), leeks, carrots, turnips, chives, kale, mesculin, chard, fava beans, snap peas, broccoli, and cabbage. The rhubarb is starting to get full and raise its head. Nothing better than strawberry rhubarb pie in the Spring. I am sure we will continue to plant more varieties of vegetables. Nick, our assistant miller and gardener extraordinaire, says that there is nothing better than fresh vegetables right from the ground. We all agree. We are all “vegephiles”, people who love vegetables. Our Executive Chef is also looking forward to doing a class on vegetables from the garden.    photo

Joseph, our master gardener, has been busy replanting the lemon grass and dividing the heads. It is lovely and fragrant, and so delicious in soup and stews. We have also trimmed the lavender and are trying to root sprigs to plant some more.  We are considering an organic certification but still have to work out how to control the weeds especially in the new small trees. Watch for sunflowers to poke their heads and turn toward the sun this summer.

Recently, Elisabeth brought back garbanzo beans from Italy, and they are getting pre-soaked before being planted in the garden next to the Mill. She returns  to Italy tomorrow to live in Sicily and make wine at a natural winery on the slope of Mt. Etna. She will blog from there to keep us updated on how to grow Nerello Mascalese wine.

Plant and enjoy the benefits of living in California.  We are all very lucky to have this opportunity. Come see our garden grow.

Pasta

PASTA! PASTA ! PASTA!

We just had a wonderful class on pasta, led by our Chef Marvin Martin. It was so popular we may do another! Everyone ate well, laughed well, and went home with the recipes to try their hand at making homemade pasta. I grew up making pasta by hand, in class we made pasta with an electric pasta roller. The small Atlas hand cranked pasta makers are just fine to use to make dinner at home. For ease of making lasagna, we recommend Barilla or De Cecco pre made pasta. The Barilla oven ready pasta sheets are fabulous for making lots of lasagna for your party.
pasta blogWhen you make dough, feel free to add spices to the dough itself to add layers of flavor. In class the pasta dough was flavored with finely diced green olives, Castelvetrano, Nocellara del Belice olives, from Sicily. You can purchase these olives locally in Northern California, at Nugget Market, Whole Foods, and Costco. If you cannot find this product in your local store, ask your grocer to purchase some for you to try.
In Italy, each town, each Grandmother, has their own pasta recipe and their own sauce. Books have been written about how to pair just the right sauce with just the right type and shape of pasta. Different shapes are usually indicative of regional preferences and how to pair their local sauces. Here is a beautiful example of corzetti or coins, the wood hand press cuts the dough and the engraved characters on the disc are pressed into the pasta coins. The designs helps hold more sauce. In Liguria, where Taggiasca olive oil is plentiful, I have had corzetti served with oil, toasted pine nuts, herbs, salt and pepper, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. It is common in Liguria to add a little wine to the pasta dough.

pasta blog 2
Speaking of pasta, yesterday our staff attended Tri Biccheri in San Francisco, we tasted our way through over 100 premium Italian wines. This was a wonderful experience to talk to the wine makers and distributors from Italy. So many amazing wines. Beautiful Amarone from Nagar near Verona. Fresh sparkling white wines from the Veneto region, and gorgeous dessert wines from Sicily and Sardinia. Of course all the Chianti was so drinkable. Great fun to discuss wines with your friends and plan meals around the best wines from Italy. After the tasting we went to La Ciccia, “the best Italian restaurant in San Francisco” according to the food critics in the city. Their pasta dishes are spectacular. The sauces are really out of this world. Olive oil, lemon, and dried tuna over fresh pasta over spaghetti. A ragu with lamb, tomatoes and herbs served over tiny gnocchi. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I would love to go back there tonight. The owners, Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan are so friendly and gracious to every single person who comes in the door.

In preparing for the class, I did some research on pasta and would like to share the list of dried and fresh pasta names with you. Pasta the noble Maccherone
From The Silver Spoon Pasta
There is no more natural and simple food than pasta, which is made from tow ingredients only – flour and water. Simply drying the product makes it last for much longer, while its natural coloring is already full of the sun’s brightness, absorbed by the wheat grains as they grow in the fields. The Queen of fresh pasta is egg pasta. Pasta is one of the most balanced foods in terms of human nutrition. Every city, town, region and village in Italy has its own method of making pasta: the shape, sauce, filling, and even the dough varies. Pastario, the atlas of Italian pasta, says that pasta is music to your mouth.
The oldest evidence dates back to 3,000 years BC. The ancient Greeks and Etruscans produced and ate the first types of pasta. The oldest documentary evidence for the use of dried pasta dates to 1316 and was found in Genoa, naming the first pasta make in history, Maria Borgogno, owner of a house in which lasagna was made.
For Italians the only way pasta can be cooked is “al dente” or “vierde vierde”, as they say in Naples, and overcooked pasta is considered uneatable. “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth”, while “vierde vierde” means “very green” or “unripened”, both describing pasta that is tender but still firm to the bite. Here is a compilation of some of the names of pastas from the Silver Spoon pasta book and Pastario.
THE SILVER SPOON PASTA BOOK, PHAIDON PRESS
Pastario, Atlante Delle Paste Alimentari Italiane, Eugenio Medagliani e Alessi, Crusinallo 1985

pasta chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for recipe: Fresh Egg Pasta Dough a la Chef Marvin Martin at IL Fiorello

CONCLUSION
Making pasta is fun. Eating pasta is even more fun. Experiment with types of pasta and types of sauces. Go to La Ciccia and learn how the real experts make spectacular pasta. Then go home and use the recipes and make your own.
Mangia Mangia.

Custom Milling

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

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Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

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Il Fiorello Blog

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

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Custom Milling

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

read more...

Tastings

Taste extra virgin and co-milled flavored olive oils.

read more...

Il Fiorello Blog

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

read more...