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Farming in the Winter, Sights to See and Appreciate

 

In the winter things are quiet in the olive groves, but the animals are still active.

We grow olives, lavender, citrus, and figs, and have a culinary garden. The olives grow at our home in Green Valley and at our Farm in Suisun Valley. If you live in an olive grove you have animals, domestic and wild. Sometimes they both cross the lines and all the time you can enjoy their presence. Well at least some of the time.

owls

We encourage birds, we have counted 75 different varieties on our land. We have an amateur birder on our staff and she is keeping a count of the numbers and variety. We encourage bees, birds, and most of our friends that are ground dwellers. We love the owls and hawks that help moderate our ground critters that eat our trees. Our owl boxes are being used by local owls, leaving remnants of their nightly feasts. We often find owl pellets, the ones you dissected in grade school, in our side yard. If you are walking in the grove at night you can feel their presence as they glide on virtually silent wings. Maybe next year we can post an owl-cam from the nearest owl box. The turkeys are always present and one lone hen wanders across the road from the vineyards every evening at dusk. The major animal, really a bug that we discourage is the olive fly.
But that is the topic of another entire blog.

bee

At home in the early evening, and early mornings we hear foxes bark and discuss mating and afternoon snacks. They have ventured to our deck and taken cool drinks from the fountain. The fox scared our daughter, whom was also sitting on the deck in the late cool evening. One sharp bark from the fox who was very surprised to find a human in his territory sent her scurrying inside. Of course they would not do anything but bark to protect their territory, but that is country life. If you go on line to YouTube you can listen to the bark of the fox, very unusual. One time we found our cats sitting on the grass near the fountain with the fox lying just near them. All peacefully coexisting for that moment in time.

The raccoons are another issue. Very beautiful animals, curious and smart, they found the cat door and helped themselves to the cat food. So the cat door was closed and the cats were kept inside until the raccoons found another place to have a free feast. Four very young raccoons were playing in the driveway making soft chirping sounds. Great to watch but they can be aggressive animals. Flashlight and some clapping sent them out the drive and down the hill. But knowing raccoons I am sure they remember the free feast.

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We have doves, turkeys, owls, hawks pigeons, pheasants, and Guinea hens. The flock down the road from us cackles and cries and someday I expect they will show up at our front door. Beautiful large birds, black and white speckled, but I am told not very good parents. Ducks, a pair I call Fred and Myrtle fly over each night to find their night spot, White egrets and blue herons make their way up and down the irrigation canal. The great blue herons only need wire rim glasses to look like old dodgy professors. We have a flock of motley geese that supervise our milling operations. We all laugh as they alert to noises that may threaten their territory.

Coyotes in the middle of the night, early evening, early morning. You can hear the coyotes howling up and down the creek. They move and the sound echoes throughout the canyon. Usually it is a sad lovely call, but sometimes they are very active and on the hunt. I always count the cats and try to bring them in but up until now they have all survived. Even Piccolo who is a pure white cat and glows in the full moon.

cows

Cows, we call “the girls,” roam the back hills behind the olive farm. They keep close watch on us during milling season as they must know the olive waste may turn into feed for their winter dinners. At the last Kitchen in the Grove cooking class on cheese, “the girls” and their babies made a cameo appearance and mooed their way into our hearts when we talked about good cheese.

The rattle snakes are the ones that are good for the olive grove as they keep the mice and moles and vole population down, but not good for us. We have had a few on property, both at home and at the Olive Farm. We try to have animal control come out to capture and relocate them, but they are very territorial and often come back to the same spot. Our Vet has some great stories of moving snakes vs snake shot and then holes in his car door, don’t tell his wife we told on her. In reality they are solitary creatures and like to be left alone, but just not under my Visitors Center front porch.

We tell everyone that visits that this is a farm and critters are always around, watch out and you may even see something wonderful. Always be alert and you will see more, much more.

Watch for the announcement of our expanded Farm Tours.

Co-Milled Olive Oils

AKA Flavored Oils
2015 Production

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What do you do with 8 tons of newly harvested olives and 2 tons of fresh fruit? You make co-milled oils of course, one of our most popular products. We use really fresh fruit, sweet and succulent and flavorful; Tangelos, Limes, Lemons, and Jalapeños.

There is a huge difference between olive oil made with a flavored essence added to the oil and a true co-milled oil. While milling olives we mill the citrus at the same time. The olives and the citrus go through the crusher together. It makes a better oil, more homogenized and therefore more flavorful. The proportions of olive to fruit will differ each year, depending on the ripeness and oil content of the olives and the taste of the specific fruit. The exact proportions are usually a closely held secret. The whole fruit is used, skin, seeds, flesh. The skins have an enormous amount of their own oils, and that translates to flavor.

Many olive oil companies in California produce enough to make flavored oils. Although we use olives that could be made into certified extra virgin oil, the co-milled flavored oils cannot be certified. Anything added to olive oil makes that product not acceptable to extra virgin standards. Some companies may state on the bottle, extra virgin olive oil with citrus or herbs added. We just mill the fruit together and make luscious co-milled oils, and call it co-milled. Remember that we mill and not press our olives. First cold press, although legal to use, is not really the process today. It is not first, not cold and not pressed. These names are monikers from a historical perspective.

In competitions, savvy judges are asking the producers to state whether there is an essence added or if the product is co-milled. There is nothing wrong to adding an essence, just that the taste is very different. We prefer to cut the fresh fruit and mill with fresh olives.

The jalapeños go into the crusher whole and you should smell the absolutely wonderful aroma of ground jalapeños as they are very gently warmed going through the malaxation tanks. Just amazing…… Of course this is the last oil of the season, as you can imagine we are now in the process of taking the centrifuges apart and cleaning each little hose and tube.

How do you use co-milled oils? We suggest pairing these luscious oils with fresh products.
Tangelo: Great with Chinese Chicken Salad, or dressing for fresh avocados or citrus salad
Lemon: Serve with fresh pasta, a little salt and pepper and a little juice of a fresh lemon
Lime: Serve with fish tacos, on a sweet soup as a finishing oil, or as a cabbage salad dressing
Jalapeño: Serve drizzled over guacamole, hummus, and couscous, or on grilled chicken or steak.

comilledfoods

Olive Milling 2014 Harvest Year

 

We are milling great olives this year!  This 2014 harvest is much better than the crop of last year, both in quality and quantity. Everyone is happier and so very proud of their fruit.  This is also a very early harvest; our own olives were harvested and milled almost five weeks earlier than last year.IMG_2506

It is a pleasure to meet everyone that delivers olives to our mill.  Most are tired from harvesting and grateful that their fruit is safely delivered. This represents a yearlong odyssey with their olives.  Truly, people are passionate about their fruit.  It is also interesting to see so many different types of olives and how they grow in different micro climates in Northern California. Little tiny Korineiki are dwarfed by mammoth Sevillano, along with the fat and plump Frantoio, the like I have rarely seen.  Most are really healthy, well harvested, and lovely fruit.  In this area, the olive fly seems not to be as devastating as last year.  Although, we are still seeing some bad fly infestations from growers that are not spraying their fruit or not spraying correctly.  There are great conversations at the mill about growing and how to help the trees give good fruit. We also have much celebration when oil is pouring out of the Valente centrifuge. This truly is a treasured product.  I love the honor of giving growers the first taste of their oil, right out of the centrifuge. This makes everyone smile and be happy that they are in this crazy business.

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Milling is a lot of work, and it takes precision
to run the equipment. It is not as simple as just turning on the machine and pushing buttons. In fact, with each delivery of olives there are discussions as to the type of grinding wheel, time of malaxation and correct malaxation temperature, centrifuge speed, and correct storage. Each olive batch is monitored for volume of olives, extraction rate, and temperature control. This data helps us learn from our hard work as how to best mill certain types of olives. We love to have discussions before milling with the growers are to their goals. The time not to have these discussions is while we are hard at work running the machines.  Everyone wants to see their olives being milled, however, due to health and safety rules that is just not possible.  With pre- discussions about methods of milling, both the grower and the miller can rely on each other to do their best job.

IMG_2904Growing olives is a passion and a lot of hard work.  You cannot just sit back and watch them grow. If it isn’t spraying, it is weeding.  If not weeding, it is pruning.  Farming is an ongoing business.   I hosted a group of 15 twelve year olds for a birthday party and tasting. What a group of interested and busy, young women.  Representing women in agriculture, I hope that I captured their interest in growing.  As I told them, if I don’t farm, you don’t eat.  And as anyone knows, kids love to eat.  It was great fun, and I hope that they recognized a little bit of the work that it takes to grow and make olive oil.

Our Olio Nuovo is now available at our Visitor Center. Come taste this beautiful new oil. This is the best of the year; fruity, pungent, fragrant and delicious. This taste is what we wait for all year long.  See you at the Farm!

Harvest Begins

We are up and milling and expecting over 46,000 pounds just in the first two weeks. Harvest is very early and we are harvesting our own olives almost 5 weeks earlier than last year.

Here is what our growers and colleagues are saying about this year’s crop: As usual with olives, some trees are heavy with fruit and others have none. Some trees have ripe olives on one side and green on the other. This is pretty normal for olives. This sturdy tree is always teaching us new lessons.

Crop size varies depending on the location and variety of the olives. Some crops are very light, while others are moderate to heavy.

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The olive fly is very fickle. Some growers have lost entire crops and other growers who were not rigorous in spraying have a greater than 20% loss. At IL Fiorello we have been very diligent in spraying every week to prevent crop loss and have less than a 10% infestation. It is clear to us at IL Fiorello that there is a change in the fly, whether it be resistance, increased number of olives, and/or growers who are not taking care of their trees. Landscape trees are of particular concern as no one monitors, treats, or harvests these trees.

We have handpicked all the olives and they are in the mill this week! We are milling almost every day and reservations for mill tours are still available. At our Visitor Center, tastings are every day from 1 to 5, including fresh oil called Olio Nuovo.  We have some fabulous Olio Nuovo available now for purchase. It is the best new Frantoio oil I have tasted in a long time.

Call us and come out and watch the process!

 

 

 

The California Olive Oil Commission

The California Olive Oil Commission was formed under the stewardship of Senator Lois Wolk. Similar to the Almond Commission, the Olive Oil Commission was created to standardize nomenclature as well as the processing of oils from California.

Is this a good thing, at the right time or not? Fortunately everyone has their opinion and gets to express it. On July 16, 2014, the California Senate held a meeting for open public comment on the California Olive Oil Commission.  Over 100 people attended to provide testimony and input on the document. Growers and producers of olive oil from California, European Union, including representatives from Italy all gathered to give their opinions about the process and the document.

The Olive Oil Commission became law on January 1, 2014 and became operational effective March 24, 2014. The Commission proposes grading and labeling standards for California.  It is important to have accurate statements and definitions to help California define our unique product.

In our opinion the use of certain terms, specifically, “best by dates” and “first cold press”, are detrimental to the language in the Commission’s document. These terms confuse our consumers. Some people who sell olive oil make claims that it cures diabetes, lowers blood pressure and other medical claims, which are misleading; stuff and nonsense. We in the industry have let such ridiculous claims go unchecked too long. It is time to change.  It is time to base your definitions in fact and science.

The real emphasis is that we in California want to promote a clean product: Extra virgin olive oil, certified by specific guidelines.

Just this week in Taiwan, a court settlement was levied against suppliers of adulterated oil.  The IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company was interviewed by Taiwan news media last fall about this very serious problem. This is an example of both the economic and consumer fraud issue that California is trying to address with the California Olive Oil Commission.

Come in to IL Fiorello and ask us about the Commission and how it affects us as producers and how it can benefit consumers.cooc_seal_shadow

Refer to:

  1. Senate Bill 250.
  2. Lois Wolk Senator California (D)

Testimony July 15, 2014

  1. Divergent Views on Proposed California Olive Oil Standards

Olive Oil Times

By Nancy Flagg on July 22, 2014

Gelato

Gelato picture

JULY is national ice cream month, but we have something much better. Italian Gelato!!! Celebrate!

IL Fiorello has gelato, made by Leo Leo in Paso Robles. The family is from Florence, hence the name Leo, or Lion, the symbol of Florence. Fantastic, delightful, perfect, amazing, colors and flavors. 99 to be exact. Each week we will offer different flavors. Current favorites are Passion Fruit Sorbet, Chile Chocolate and, of course, Olive Oil Gelato made with our own olive oil and drizzled with lemon olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Heavenly.

We served gelato in the colors of the French flag at our Bastille Day celebration, Blueberry blue, Honey Lavender white, and Strawberry Basil red. We do have fun. The next offerings will include Pistachio.  Everyone who has gone to Italy will testify that this is the test of how good the gelato really is. We will have my very favorite in the Fall, Chestnut. Beautiful creamy vanilla with chunks of chestnuts. Drizzled with a wee bit of balsamic it is my perfect gelato. Or maybe creamy gelato with a shot of espresso on top, called affogato. Or maybe stracciatella, chocolate bits interwoven into super creamy gelato. Or maybe just espresso, dark and rich. So many to choose from. We purchased peanut butter and jelly for the kids, and all the adults ate it because of the clarity of the flavors. Great!

We had such a hard time trying to decide what flavors to have at IL Fiorello. It was a very hard job tasting each and every flavor. You should have seen us by the end of the day. Wanting to taste more and more but groaning with pleasure at the wonderful flavors and colors.  Maybe we should hold a contest as to which one is the best, that would be a lot of tasting, but we could rise to the occasion.

We have had many requests to sell the gelato by the pint and gallon so we are making plans to do just that. How fun is that idea?

Look up Leo Leo.  Their web site is too good to be real.  Then come to IL Fiorello for a taste. See the gorgeous photo below from their beautiful web site.

www.leoleogelato.com

When my girls were young we used to read all the Shel Silverstein books for children and adults. This one poem makes me laugh and sigh, as Mr. Silverstein died all too early. He has entertained many a person with his wit and art. Buy all of his books and read to the children with a scoop of ice cream to top it off. This poem is just delightful for national ice cream, really gelato, month.

EIGHTEEN FLAVORS

By Shel Silverstein

Eighteen luscious, scrumptious flavors

Chocolate, lime and cherry,

Coffee, pumpkin, fudge banana

Caramel cream and boysenberry.

Rocky road and toasted almond,

Butterscotch, vanilla dip,

Butter brickle, apple ripple,

Coconut and mocha chip,

Brandy peach and lemon custard,

Each scoop lovely, smooth and round,

Tallest ice cream cone in town,

Lying there (sniff) on the ground.

Come in and have a double scoop cup- no spills.

 

Watch Our Video

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...