Posted on September 25 2010
By Cristabelle Tumola
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from New York
In the past few decades the concept of adoption has been stretched to include a person donating money for the adoptee to be cared for in its own environment, such as saving endangered animals, like pandas, or threatened environments, like rainforests. Recently, the adoption definition has once again been extended to include not only adopting a piece of nature and helping to preserve it, but also receiving what it produces. These adoptions include fruit trees, such as apple or peach, as well as olive trees.
The concept of adopting a tree and receiving its goods has a strong connection to recent food movements, whether it’s eating healthier, more organic or local. Part of the idea behind the local food movement is that people want to feel a stronger connection to the food they eat, to the person growing the food and to the place they live. Of course, for the majority of the country olive oil is not a local product, but by adopting an olive tree, it can provide a similar comfort.
Among the most notable of the adopt an olive tree programs is Nudo, whose groves are mostly located in Italy’s central-eastern region of Le Marche. Started in 2005, the program now has adoptees throughout the world, in places such as the U.S., Australia and Japan. For a yearly fee, an adopter receives three different packages throughout the year: two olive oil shipments and one with a personalized adoption certificate and booklet about the tree. In addition, Nudo gives each adopter the chance to pick a tree from one of their six groves.
Also in Italy, is Abruzzo Passion, named for founder Albina Fabiani’s love for her homeland and the simplicity of life in Abruzzo. Founded in 2006, Fabiani offers walking tours to travelers, in addition to the adoption program. Adopters get to choose from one of two olive groves with a variety of trees. Each person receives an adoption certificate and tree information, a spring package with stone crushed extra virgin olive oil and an autumn package of olive oil flavored with Abruzzo herbs as well as a personalized cookbook.
Across the European continent to the west, in Spain, is Finca Vall den Rubi. Its olive grove, consisting of 700 trees, and a Spanish cottage, where guests can stay, are located in the Baix Ebre area in southern Catalonia. As with the programs in Italy, Finca Vall den Rubi gives each adopter a certificate and photo of the tree along with 2 liters of extra virgin olive as well as a voucher for a discounted stay at the cottage.
Adopting an olive tree isn’t limited to the eastern side of the Atlantic. America also has some its own programs. One of those places is in an area that few think of when they picture an olive grove—Texas. Located in the Central Texas Hill Country near the town of Dripping Springs, Texas Hill Country Olive Company, a family-run organic olive farm has five different types of olive trees that can be adopted. It not only gives its adopters oil from their trees, but also their own personalized label on each bottle.
A more familiar location for U.S. produced olive oil is California. Despite the recent olive oil craze on the West Coast, only one name comes up when searching for California olive tree adoption programs—Olivas de Oro Olive Company. Founded by the husband and wife team of Frank and Marti Menacho in 1999, their program is just a few months old. Along with three shipments of extra virgin olive oil, an adoption certificate and a photo of the tree, each member also gets a Certified California Organic Farmers’ certificate.
Even though each of these programs are in different locations, with varying benefits, prices and trees, they all have something in common when it comes to the reasons behind and the value of their adoption programs. For the European programs, it comes from history, tradition and the drive to help out small artisan olive farmers. In order to ensure the quality of olive oil, Nudo promotes small-scale farmers, many of who, without a program like Nudo’s would be forced to sell their olive oil at low prices and soon become a thing of the past. “The children of the old farmers don’t want to spend time and energy farming. So the traditional olive plantations are in serious danger and could be neglected,” says Annet Timmer and Trees Turpijn, the owners of Finca Vall Den Rubi.
At Texas Hill Country Olive Company, it’s also about tradition, but about establishing a new one for future generations. “The owners, Rick Mensik and John Gambini wanted to build something that would last, something that they believed in, so they decided on an olive orchard,” says Nicole Swanson, Mensik’s daughter and the one who is in charge of adoptions. “We also wanted a business where we know our customers and have relationships with them,” she adds. Marti Menacho of Olivas de Oro Olive Company has the same driving force behind her program: “Truly our motivation for doing this was to really involve people. We just didn’t want to be a nameless face of a shipment that arrives on your doorstep with no connection.”
Although these programs can range from around $90 to $150 per year, for the producers, and for their customers, however, the value can’t be measured in dollars and cents. “It is not about buying, it is about helping,” says Albina Fabiani. The quality also creates great value as Nudo’s Marketing Manager, Roelof J. le Roux, explains: “In the springtime, adoptive parents receive olive oil that was still ‘hanging on the tree’ just four months before. As legislation demands that Best Before dates only be applied upon bottling, most big olive oil brands in supermarkets sell oils that have been stored in tanks for one or two years or even more. This way supermarket customers never experience the real benefits of fresh, healthy, flavorful olive oil.”
Adopt an olive tree programs also offer customers a chance to increase their connection and value by giving them the opportunity to visit their trees. Nudo has had about 40 adopters come over to Italy last year to visit their tree. At Texas Hill, they’ve had several families bring their children and take pictures of them next to their trees, with an average of about one family per week coming to the farm to either visit their tree or choose one to adopt.
Whether over five years or a few months, each of these adopt an olive programs have seen a growth in new members, as well as more people renewing year after year. As more people desire to feel a stronger connection to what they are eating and to ensure the quality of the food they are putting into their mouths,
adopt an olive tree programs are sure to keep growing.
Olive production across the Mediterranean Basin has a long and prestigious past, which today is firmly rooted in the economic, social and cultural life of its inhabitants. Around the region, around eight million hectares are dedicated to olive cultivation producing, all told, some 1,800,000 tons of oil.
The project concentrated on olive oil production processes in Spain, Italy and Greece. To extract olive oil, three different methods are commonly used. The traditional press method is a non-continuous process which provides high purity extra virgin olive oils. The other two techniques are the two- and three-phase decanter centrifuge methods. The three-phase is a continuous process that requires the addition of warm water to improve extraction, as is the two-phase which differs by operating without adding any water. This last is the most innovative technique and produces a semi-solid cake of pressed olive fruits and stones as opposed to the highly polluting wastewater from the three-phase process. This wastewater needs treatment before disposal.
Olive oil waste has always been one of the biggest problems associated with the industry. The environmental devastation, caused by the accidental release of non-treated waste that periodically occurs, bears witness to this. However, recent innovations in extraction technology have resulted in new types of waste, making much of existing waste treatment and recovery obsolete.
Not wasted at all
Nonetheless, this project – consisting of 19 partners from the UK, Spain, Italy, Greece and The Netherlands – aims to develop uses for olive oil waste in five different areas. Using carbon dioxide for supercritical fluid extraction and the chemical compound 1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane for solvent extraction, high value-added components will be extracted. Both processes are at the vanguard of extraction technology and will provide the raw materials for nutritional and pharmaceutical applications, and flavours and oils.
While petrochemical oils are used for domestic and commercial energy, there is no reason not to use other more natural oils for the same purpose. Hence the use of olive oil waste as a low cost renewable energy source will also be targeted. This involves the absorption of spilt oil, which could then be incinerated for energy recovery. It has already been shown that the absorption of oil spills is feasible.
Biosorption is the process of biologically recovering pollutants. Olive oil waste will be tested as an adsorbent of contaminants such as metals and colours from aqueous effluents.
Preliminary studies have shown that the waste adsorbs (i.e. binds) toxic cadmium, copper and lead – a promising early result. Yet another part of the work package will try to break down waste through the use of anaerobic bacteria, leaving it in a less polluting form.
Through this, methane could be produced which could be used as an energy source. In agriculture, waste is often spread on the surface as a fertilizer, returning nutrients to the soil. Olive oil waste will be investigated to see if it can be put to the same use to improve crop yield and quality. Through work conducted so far, the exact chemical and physical properties of olive oil waste has been ascertained. This forms the basis for much of this project’s future work.
In today’s climate of re-use and recycling it is refreshing to see an industry that generates a lot of waste being able to put its waste to good use: a case of changing the age-old saying from waste not, want not, to waste it, want it.
Good quality olive oil contains a natural chemical that acts in a similar way to a painkiller. The active ingredient – found in greater concentrations in fresher olives – is called oleocanthal and inhibits the activity of enzymes involved in inflammation in the same way as ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Inflammation has been linked to a wide range of conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
To rule out the possibility that any other compound was involved, chemists at Monell and Penn created a synthetic form of oleocanthal identical in all respects to that found naturally in olive oil, and showed that it produced exactly the same throat irritation.
The sensory similarities between oleocanthal and ibuprofen led scientists at Monell and the University of the Sciences to investigate potential common pharmacological properties. Studies revealed that, like ibuprofen, oleocanthal inhibits activity of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. Because inhibition of COX activity underlies the anti-inflammatory actions of ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the new findings suggest oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
Taking their lead from the cues provided by olive oil’s throaty bite, the scientists systematically evaluated the sensory properties of an unnamed chemical compound thought to be responsible for the throat irritating property of premium olive oils. When results confirmed that the irritating intensity of a given extra-virgin olive oil was directly related to how much of the chemical it contained, the researchers named the compound oleocanthal (oleo=olive; canth=sting; al=aldehyde).
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Black olives are olives which have been allowed to fully ripen on the tree before harvesting. They tend to have a different flavor from more immature green olives, and they can be cured in a variety of ways for different uses and flavor profiles. Like other products of the olive tree, black olives play an integral role in the cuisine of many Mediterranean nations, and they are popular in some other countries as well. Most grocery stores sell several forms of black olives.
All olives come from the olive tree, a Mediterranean tree which has been cultivated for thousands of years. The fruits can be pressed to produce olive oil, or cured to make olives. The wood has traditionally been used for some regional crafts, while the trees themselves are symbols of peace and goodwill. If well cared for, an olive tree can live for hundreds of years.
Unlike many fruits, an olive cannot be eaten right of the tree. Olives are naturally intensely bitter. Therefore, they must be cured in things like salt, water, oil, or lye. The fruits are also dry cured in some parts of the Mediterranean. The cure makes the olive palatable, adds a unique flavor and texture to the fruit, and often allows it to be stored for prolonged periods of time. Olives fall into two basic categories: green olives, which are picked before they are ripe, and black olives, which are ripened fully before curing.
Many consumers are familiar with California or Mission olives, which are traditionally cured in lye. These giant olives have a fairly neutral flavor and a meaty texture, and they are commonly used as a pizza topping and in some Latin American cuisine. Mission olives can also be made from green olives, which turn naturally black during the lye curing process.
Other common varieties of black olives include Kalamata olives, traditionally brined olives from Greece. The Italian equivalent is the Gaeta. Kalamatas have a salty, slightly acidic flavor, and come in pitted and unpitted forms. Small wrinkly salt cured black olives from Morocco are another favorite variety. Nicoise and nyon black olives from France are often cured with herbs, and they have a delicate, complex flavor. In Europe, some varieties of black olives are protected by an Appellation of Controlled Origin, in order to preserve regional history and culinary heritage.
Olive tree cultivation and the production of olive oil have been around for at least 6,000 years according to artifacts and archaeological remnants of the most ancient civilizations. The olive has been a fundamental part of life in the eastern Mediterranean from the very beginning of civilization. There are stone mortars and presses used for olive oil extraction that have been dated as far back as 5000 B.C. The sustainable cultivation of the olive tree is believed to have occurred for the first time in Greece, on Crete to be more specific, in about 3500 B.C. during the Early Minoan times. Although olive oil pressing had existed for hundreds, possibly even thousands of years by this time, the domestication of olives and the culture of olive oil was spread by the Greeks. Olive trees were a dominant feature of the stony Greek countryside and became the cornerstone of Hellenic society. As early as 700 B.C., the Greeks were the first to protect the fruit by law. In fact, they were so sacred that those who chopped one down were condemned to exile and even death.
During the following years, the importance of olive oil and the olive tree continued to expand culturally. The symbolism of the olive tree and the exceptional value of olive oil are visible in every aspect of life in ancient Greece. At the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C., an olive branch was awarded as a symbol of peace to winning athletes. In the following years, the branch was joined by extremely generous quantities of olive oil itself, sometimes as much as 5 tons for a single winner, marking one of the earliest accounts of presenting a monetary award to competitors in a sporting event. Taking into account that the laws in Athens prevented the export of the olive oil with the exception of this concession for winners of the ancient Olympic Games, it is easy to imagine how rich any winner could become.
The olive culture was spread from Crete to Syria, Palestine, and Israel; commercial systems and new knowledge then brought it to Southern Turkey, Cyprus, and Egypt. The ability to cultivate olives reached Southern Italy and Northern Africa in the eighth century B.C., and then spread into Southern France. During the Roman rule, olive trees were planted in the entire Mediterranean. As the Romans extended their empire they planted olive trees as a peace offering to lands they had conquered. By the height of the Roman Empire’s reign, olive trees were growing successfully in Spain and northern Africa, and olive presses were ordinary tools throughout the Basin. Due to the expansive geographical area, countless olive oils were produced and each differed widely in heat, flavor and sweetness similar to the variety of types and quality of wine.
By early 1600s, olive groves could be found in coastal Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile and California. Today olive trees are cultivated in South Africa, China, Japan and even Australia. Olive oil has never lost its symbolic power despite traveling so far from its original home. It is still an essential part of everyday life for people worldwide, and each new destination that produces olive oil reminds us of the lessons in perseverance and peace that the strong and stubborn olive tree symbolizes.
I hope you enjoyed this article and as always STAY HEALTHY!