I am really pleased to share this guest blog post which Judy Ridgway has written for my readers. Judy is an independent olive oil expert and here she shares her knowledge about Early Harvest extra virgin olive oil including suggestions for which ones to look out for. She also includes two delicious salad recipes, ‘Greek Village Salad’ and ‘Tomato, Cheese and Mackerel Salad’. Judy Ridgway is co-author of ‘The Olive Oil Diet’ and blogger at www.judyridgway.co.uk. She can also be followed on Twitter @judyoliveoil.
If you want to check out my guest post for Judy (which includes the two salad recipes pictured above, ‘Sicilian Winter Salad’ and ‘Grilled Endive and Blue Cheese Salad’), go to http://www.judyridgway.co.uk/great-winter-salads-from-blogger-total-salads/.
Early harvest oils
I have just seen the first “early harvest” extra virgin olive oil of 2016 on sale on the internet, and the shops should see their first oils soon. The olive harvest in the northern hemisphere begins in October or November, depending on the region, and goes on until all the olives have been picked. Some producers make a special feature of the oils from the very first olives to be picked and label them “Early Harvest”. At this stage the olives are relatively unripe and when pressed produce an oil which can be stronger in flavour than later oils from the same olive grove. Even an oil which is usually very sweet and delicate will have a greener style, perhaps with some bitterness or pepper, if it is made from early harvest olives. Oils that are naturally more aggressive will be very bitter and peppery.
As the harvest progresses the phenolic and aromatic substances in the oil which give it much of its flavour and health benefits peak and then begin to fall off but the oil content of the olive continues to increase as it ripens. This explains why early harvest oils are particularly flavourful. Because of their higher phenolic content they are also likely to offer more health benefits so they are well worth looking out for.
Late harvest oils
In the past some producers also highlighted oils pressed from olives picked towards the end of the harvest. However, oils labelled “Late harvest” are now rare. This is probably because the softer flavours of these oils is no longer very popular. This is something of a culinary loss. Despite their lower levels of polyphenols these oils did add to the wonderful range of special tastes that can be found among extra virgin olive oils. A particularly unusual example of “Late Harvest oil” is Biancardo oil from Liguria which may be pressed as late as April or May. These oils have a very light creamy, buttery flavour. Some “late harvest” oils pressed from California and Australian Mission olives have a similar taste.
Early harvest oils in salads
The combination of early harvest extra virgin olive oil and fresh raw salad ingredients is hard to beat and at this time of the year when fruit and vegetables are not always as plentiful early harvest olive oil brings an extra dollop of beneficial nutrients to the table. Teaming up early harvest oils with salad leaves and tomatoes, which are not at their full complement of antioxidants at this time of the year, will boost these salads back to their usual beneficial levels. Here are a couple of salads which use early harvest oils from Greece and Spain.
GREEK VILLAGE SALAD
This traditional Greek Salad is rustic and chunky and uses Terra Creta Early Harvest EVOO from the island of Crete. This deeply herbaceous oil is pressed from specially selected groves in late October, a few weeks before the main harvest starts.
Terra Creta olive oil: Based in Crete, this excellent company has again produced an early harvest oil pressed from Koronieki olives from specially selected groves in October. It is green, fresh and spicy with really herbaceous tones. For more information see http://www.terracreta.gr/pages.aspx?lang=en&id=295#.WHZRRlOLTIU
3 medium organic tomatoes
1/3 organic English cucumber, washed, quartered, chopped in 1/2 inch chunks
1 each yellow and green pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1small thinly sliced red onion
10 Kalamata olives
1 tsp Cretan oregano
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans or white cannellini beans
Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
2/3 cup sheep or goat cheese Feta, cut into 1 inch chunks
50ml Terra Creta early harvest extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cut two of the tomatoes into quarters and then cut in half again. Peel, seed and finely chop the third tomato and keep on one side for dressing the dish.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients, except the feta cheese in bowl.
- Toss with all the dressing ingredients.
- Plate up in rustic wooden bowl and top with the Feta chunks, finely chopped tomato and another sprinkle of oregano.
TOMATO, CHEESE AND MACKEREL SALAD
This rather unusual salad comes from the chef of Restaurante Casa Piolas in Algarinejo – hometown of Orodeal. It is quick and easy to make and tastes really good.
Orodeal Early Harvest olive oil: This very well flavoured and really fruity Spanish oil is unfiltered and will be available from mid-January after it has been allowed to settle properly. It is pressed from Picudo and Hojiblanca olives grown in Granada province in southern Spain. See http://1916gourmet.com/english/products html www.freshfoodexpress.co.uk
Mix of seasonal salad leaves
Soft Goats Cheese
Fresh or tinned mackerel
Guindillas (Basque chilli peppers) in vinegar
Orodeal Premium olive oil
- Peel and thinly slice the cucumber, chop the tomato’s into chunks
- Wash and dry the salad leaves. Mix the salad leaves, olives and Guindillas in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper.
- Thinly slice the goat’s cheese.
- Place a small amount of salad leaves on plate. Surround with the thinly sliced cucumber. Place the sliced goat’s cheese onto the first layer of salad leaves.
- Add another layer of salad leaves, olives & guindillas. Top with the Mackerel.
- Sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon Salt and a good drizzle of Orodeal Premium olive oil.
Here are some more Early Harvest oils to look out for
Gonnelli Santa Tea EVOO: This Italian producer has always offered an early and a late harvest. They are now known as Raccolta di Olive Verdi pressed from unripe green olives and Raccolta di Olive Nere pressed from olives that are just fully ripened. The two offer a lovely contrast of lighter and more robust flavours to use in the kitchen. See http://www.gonnelli1585.it/en/prodotti
Seggiano Seggianese EVOO: This oil is labelled New Harvest but it is pressed from olives picked early in the season in the Monte Amiato region of southern Tuscany. Here the Olivastra olive thrives and it gives an oil which is much more delicate than the more usual Tuscan oil pressed from varieties such as Frantoio, Moraiollo and Leccino. See http://www.seggiano.com/Shop/Seggiano-Olivastra
Disisa Early Harvest EVOO: This oil from Sicily is pressed from Cerasuolo olives which are picked in October when they are still small and green. Quite strong herbaceous tones with tomatoes are the flavour tones here. See https://www.thegiftofoil.co.uk/olive-oils/premium-olive-oil/early-harvest-sicilian-olive-oil.html
Belazu Early Harvest Arbequina EVOO: Catalonia in northern Spain is the home of this well-flavoured early harvest oil. An oil which is pressed from olives which are picked even earlier is Verdemanda. More about this oil shortly at www.judyridgway.co.uk
Eleones Early Havest: This Greek oil is from Halkidi in the north. The groves, planted with Hondrolia olives, are situated around Mount Athos. It is expected to be ready for sale by mid-January. This is quite a peppery style of oil and is used locally to make a robust salad dressing with mustard, balsamic vinegar, yogurt, mayonnaise and a dash of honey. Try it on the Greek Village Salad above/below. See http://www.eleones.com/frontend/index.php
Olive Branch Early Harvest: This is another Greek early harvest oil, this time from the Lasithi province of Crete. Koroneiki olives are picked a little earlier than the main harvest and bottled specially for this UK importer. See http://myolivebranch.co.uk/
Ardoino Biancardo: This Ligurian oil is particularly unusual in it is pressed from taggiasca olives picked in May. When the sap starts to rise for the flowers at this time of the year it starts to take the chlorophyll from those olives which are left on the tree. It is traditionally very pale in colour and very sweet in flavour, almost like butter. This type of oil only comes from the tops of the mountains and it is not produced every year. It is not yet known if there will be a Biancardo oil this year. See http://www.olioardoino.it/
Terra Creta: Based in Crete, this excellent company has again produced an early harvest oil pressed from Koronieki olives from specially selected groves in October. It is green, fresh and spicy with really herbaceous tones. See http://www.terracreta.gr/pages.aspx?lang=en&id=295#.WHZRRlOLTIU
Orodeal Early Harvest: This very well flavoured and really fruity Spanish oil is unfiltered and will be available from mid-January after it has been allowed to settle properly. It is pressed from Picudo and Hojiblanca olives grown in Granada province in southern Spain. See http://1916gourmet.com/english/products html www.freshfoodexpress.co.ukFollow Me: