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So How Are We Saving Water at IL Fiorello!

The drought is full on and everyone is making concerted efforts to save water. We are very lucky at IL Fiorello because the founding fathers of Solano County developed Lake Berryessa. We have some water, precious but present. We have water available from April through October, but from October to April we have no supply and rely on rain to replenish the systems and support our trees. This is one of the reasons we planted olives because they are drought tolerant. Our newest planting is Chemlali, a North African olive tree that is drought-resistant. We are anticipating planting 100 more Chemlali trees next year.

Consult the Master Gardner’s program; they have a lot of information on how to conserve water and keep plants alive.

So what are we doing at our Farm? Here is the list of measures we have undertaken to be water efficient. We are complying with Solano County water restriction guidelines.

• Science based watering system for the trees, continuous in-ground monitoring system
• Fertigation: water and fertilize at the same time
• Our baby trees are surrounded with olive pits from the last harvest to protect from water stealing weeds and for water conservation.
• We water early in the morning or very late at night to herb and vegetable gardens as all landscape and turf irrigation is prohibited between Noon and 6 p.m.
• No washing down of patio or walkways unless there is a health hazard, such as bird or animal droppings
• Shut off valves installed on each hoselogo-save-water_G16Sg6tu
• The fountain in front of the Event Center provides water for the birds but uses recycled water.
• No extra cleaning in the olive mill when we are not milling or bottling
• Solar supported Event Center and Mill
• Water for customers is always offered but served upon request at the tasting room
• Only fully loaded trays in commercial dishwasher, cycle 3 minutes long.
• In the Kitchen all extra clean water goes to plants in our herb gardens
• On site commercial septic system to recycle potable water out to the trees. This includes water from the Visitors Center, the Commercial Kitchen, and the Olive Mill.
Here are some resources for water conservation
• Solano County Water Agency: www.solanosaveswater.org
• California Department of Water Resources and Association of California Water Agencies: www.saveourwater.com
• UC Cooperative Extension – Solano County – Master Gardener Program: www.cesolano.ucanr.edu

Growers Meeting

IL Fiorello Olive Oil Co sponsored a growers meeting on Saturday June 28, 2105 we were joined by Marvin Martin, of MarvinMartin Olive Oils and a professional olive grower and master taster from Napa and Tom Turpen, Plant Biologist, from Davis, CA.

The days discussion centered about olive fly in California and in Italy. We reviewed the methods available to growers to use GF 120 or Spinocid. Most of the growers were aware of the application process and the dilution ratio of 1 to 1.5 or 1 to 2. When mixed the Spinocid must be used within 24 according to the Dow Chemical product information. Discussion centered about how problems arise with the olive fly when neighboring growers do not spray their trees. An example is of ornamental trees planted in neighborhoods or city plantings. Suggestions were made to contact neighbors and do cooperative spraying, and to discuss with city officials that city trees need to be fruitless or sprayed to preserve commercial or private crops. There is a spray that can be applied to prevent fruit set. Swan variety of olives is also fruitless.

Discussion also centered on the use of Kaolin clay. One of our growers has been using it on tomatoes with good success. Application is at least 3 times a season to protect the olives. In California, this does not seem to be a problem, but if it rains reapplication is necessary. The manufacturer reports that this product does not have an effect on photosynthesis. No one at the meeting has direct experience with the residual Kaolin wash water risk at the mill. We at IL Fiorello are trying to find more information about how this residual is handled at the olive washing site. Short of washing the olives on site by the grower we are concerned about the residual clay in the water at the mill.

Chef Martin was a guest at Expolivo in Spain and reported to the meeting some of his findings and experiences. Expolivo is the world’s largest olive oil convention. Reports and books from the Expolivo meeting are available for your perusal at IL Fiorello, courtesy of Chef Marvin.

Tom Turpen, from Innovationmatters.com, discussed Xylella infestation in the citrus greening disease and the concern for like diseases in olives. Please refer to the article Olive Quick Decline in Italy Associated with Xylella Fastidiosa, by Elizabeth Fichtner, Dani Lightle, and Rodrigo Krugner, published in California Fresh Fruit, June 2015. OQDS, (olive quick decline syndrome) is destroying trees in Southern Italy. It is of concern here in California and growers should report dieback or scorch on olives to farm advisors or agricultural commissioners. He also discussed the possibility of research to control olive fly propagation. The group consensus was positive to go forward with this discussion and research.

The growers meeting concluded with a tour of IL Fiorello Olive Mill and a discussion of the plan for milling this coming year. Clear communication between growers and millers can make the difference call us with questions.

Ciao
References:
Marvin Martin marvinmartinoliveoils.com for information and olive grove management
UC Davis IPM Integrated Pest Management
Dr. Frank Zalom Professor of Entomology UC Davis
Dow Chemical: Spinocid information
Novasource: Surround WP Crop Protectant OMRI Organic for the Kaolin Clay

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

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.

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.

geese copy

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

comilled4

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

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!

 

 

 

Traveling In Europe 2014

 

Oils, Wine, and Cultural Preferences

Travel. Travel a lot. It is great fun. When you get to travel for your business and get to eat your way through France and Italy, go for it.

Mark and I just returned from Europe where we tasted our way down the Rhone River in Provence, France then into the Northern and Central part of Italy.  Not to worry, everyone walks a lot in Europe so putting on the pounds is not part of the deal. Enjoy the pleasure of long leisurely lunches and dinners so well perfected in Europe. Enjoy the cultural differences. That is why you travel.

French oils and French food

France has been making olive oil for a very long time. It is steeped in history, culture, lore, and food. As in many countries the olive producers take their growing very seriously. They rely on their grandfathers to tell them how to prune, when to feed their trees, and when to pick the olives at just the right time to produce their lovely oils. The French varieties are unique. We grow only three here at IL Fiorello: Aglandau, Boutellian, and Tanche. Other French varietals are Collumella, Grossane, Lucques, Picholine, Languedoc, and Salonenque. But history aside, French olive oil producers are transitioning from stone wheels and augers to press their oils to a more sophisticated method using a centrifuge. The stone wheels, according to a French grower, produce a more mild oil. But that may also be because they tend to harvest late, when the olives are riper. So there are many variables in the equation of producing fine olive oils. The French seem to prefer a milder, elegant oil with a slight fusty taste. Culturally, this is important since “Grandfather” determined when to pick and when to take the harvest to the mill. If olives are picked over a few days’ time some of the first picked olives will begin to ferment leading to the attribute/defect of “fusty”. This type of flavor has been paired with French cooking for a very long time. Culturally, this is how they love their oils and food.

We served our French oil at our French Provencal cooking class on June 29 and again at our release Bastille Day celebration of our wines and French oil on July 13. IL Fiorello turned French on that weekend. Come and try the French oils and compare them to our Mission and Italian varieties.

Italian oils and Italian foods

Italy has been producing beautiful olive oil for a millennium. The Greeks and Romans used oil for food, as well as for anointment during competitive sports and religious events.  Each area of Italy has its own food preferences and makes its own oil to pair with the foods.  Climate and historical preferences dictate what is grown in each area.  Great Grandfather gives the direction, Great Grandmother right behind him. Do not go against their preferences or experience.  Mid (Tuscany) to Southern (Sicily) Italy grow olives because of the climate. Each area has developed its own food specialties and preferences. Parma has ham. Modena has Balsamic vinegar. Cherasco  has snails. Bra has its own particular cheese, named after the river Tenero; Bra Tenero (fresh) and Bra Duro (hard).  Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, grows Taggiasca olives. They are harvested late and the oil is buttery and mild. We grow Taggiasca here at IL Fiorello but we plan to harvest earlier than in Italy, because we like the beautiful fruit aromas of the earlier harvest.

The most commonly known Italian varieties are Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo, Maurino, and Pendolino.  Each also has synonyms, Frantoio is also known as Razzo, or Correggiolo. Each area may name its trees by the great, great grandfather that settled in the area. Cultural preferences are indicative of the preferences and history of the area. Italy has been growing olives and fruit and vegetables for thousands of years and each area is very proud of their produce. I love going to the farmers markets where each vendor can give you a dissertation about their growing practices.  No snack food at these markets!  Eating is serious business eating in Italy.  Many conversations are about what everyone is preparing for dinner, what they had for dinner and what they are planning for tomorrow. It is spectacular to hear the devotion and respect for food.

Festivals abound around food, wine, and religion. Wine is also specific to the growing area, the soil, the wind, rain, and growing practices. Both Italy and France serve wine as a condiment with meals. It is just part of everyday life. We often choose the house wine wherever we eat. Often this is the family’s own wine, or a particular preference by the Chef. Listen to their recommendations, they really know how to pair food and wine. Each region celebrates their hard work and their food. Wonderful, wonderful eating and experiences.

We should respect Farmers markets here in California with the fervor and anticipation the way Europeans respect theirs. It is all about food, food preparation, and eating seasonally. Eat fresh, eat well, and eat good food, with respect to the growers.

Respect cultural differences, enjoy traveling and continue to taste everything. A whole new world will be open to you.

Ciao

Ann and Mark

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.

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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.

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