Monday, December 26, 2011
When we did the tasting of the local olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the farmers market, we got a flyer from the grower/producer Ojai Olive Oil that showed the company had tours and tastings on site on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I gave them a call to see if they would be open Christmas Eve and they were.
I occasionally travel to Oxnard, CA, for work and I had had a trip to Ojai on my list of areas to explore. I wasn’t sure how much my mother and sister would warm to the idea, but they said, “Sure, let’s go.”
We arrived a few minutes before the hour and had time to taste all their oils and balsamic vinegars (19 in total). All of their olive oils are extra virgin, cold pressed. Their balsamic vinegars are from Modena, Italy.
It was interesting tasting the different olive oils. Most I had tasted all seemed similar. I had no idea why one would taste differently than another. The first thing that sets them apart is the type of olive tree the olives are from. At Ojai Olive Oil, the French olive oil was very mild, the Italian stronger, and the Spanish olives were very peppery.
All of the olive oils produced at the farm are extra virgin, cold pressed. They also had flavored olive oils-lemon, mandarin, garlic, rosemary, and basil. All would be fabulous to add to dishes or for unique salad dressings.
The balsamic vinegar varieties-traditional style, premium white, cinnamon-pear, tangerine, pomegranate, blackberry-ginger, peach, fig, and violet. I bought the violet for salads and the blackberry-ginger for my sister.
The tour was very interesting. The grower had started the olive farm 11 years ago on the site of some century old olive trees. His olive trees were a graft of a hardy southern Italian trees as the rooting stock with the better tasting olive types grafted to the hardy root stock. He shared that the graft had a very slight flavor of the more bitter root stock. 99% of the flavor came from the top graft plant. The oils were fantastic.
The color of the olive comes from the ripeness and type. All olives when young are green. Depending on the type as they ripen, they can turn blue or reddish. Fully ripe olives are black. The closer they are to fully ripe, the sweeter the oil. The trees begin blooming in May and harvest from November to January.
The material left from the press is used as a mulch in their organic orange grove to help keep down the weeds. It is very acidic so it is only used in the center of the row of oranges and not in the olive grove. In some countries, the dried pulp is used to burn for heat. The grower uses the clippings from the trees as a mulch and to provide nutrients to the olive trees.
The olive trees require pollination from bees for the highest yields. I have a baby olive tree I am growing in a pot. I will make sure this next spring when my baby tree blooms to use a cotton swab to pollinate the flowers.
In the US, we consume 8% of the world’s olive oil and produce only 0.1%. The vast majority of the olive oil we consume is imported from Italy. Most of the Italian olive oil we import is a blend of many types of olives. When you purchase olive oil from Ojai Olive Oil, you are getting a pure, extra virgin oil as well as buying an American made product.