Olive Oil from Immoglie

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Update: February 2017 - The recent harvest in December 2016 was much better than previous ones, but we have decided not to buy-in more Immoglie oil, nor to bottle our limited stocks but to hold onto our oil for family and friends and hopefully to resume sales in 2018 - subject to a good harvest later this year and good local supplies of our Extra Virgin 100% Italian Olive Oil.  Thank you for your patience during this difficult time of shortage of quality Italian olive oil.

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Update: March 2016 - Our recent harvest in December 2015 has been much better than the previous, failed one at the end of 2014.  However, as both we and our neighbouring olive groves in Immoglie had no oil to speak of last year, we have decided to hold onto our limited stocks this year, for our own use and for that of family and friends. We will therefore NOT be bottling nor selling olive oil again this year but hope we will be back to normal next year and so hope to resume olive oil sales in 2017.

Both we at Haworth's and our neighbours in the village have all been taking advantage of the low yields over the last 2 years, and have ruthlessly pruned back our trees which in itself meant less oil this last harvest but by doing this harsh pruning, we hope that next year's harvest will be much better, depending upon this summer's sun - and hopefully not too much rain.

In Puglia, their ' pruning' was cutting down trees completely and burning them all, to arrest the spread of the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa - which was the reason for the decimation of their harvest and for which there is no cure.  So in comparison we are lucky that our lack of oil was due solely to mild and wet weather conditions and to the resultant 'olive fly' (Dacus oleae) which we hope will not re-occur as long as the weather conditions this summer are back to normal - high heat and less rain.

To all our followers we are grateful for your messages of support and for your good wishes and we apologise for not being able to fulfill your orders again this year. Let's hope we can get back to normal next year and re-commence supplying your usual annual requirements for the best Extra Virgin, 100% Italian Olive Oil money can buy and from your chosen supplier - Haworth's - from our area of Immoglie in the mountains of Central Italy.

J Alan Haworth 11 March 2016.

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Comment:  28 November 2014 - The harvest this year - November/December 2014 is not good - in fact throughout Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Croatia and much of the mediterranean the olive harvest is a disaster. Volumes are substantially down and the Communes in many areas of Italy are recommending NOT to pick the olives this year and indeed many of the frantoios (olive mills) are not opening at all or are open for only a few hours. The problem this year has been the weather.  Olives need lots of sun to reach their full potential but last summer saw lots of wet weather across Europe providing ideal conditions for the olive fly (Dacus oleae) and the olive moth to multiply and infest the olive fruit.

Just as serious as the loss of the olive fruit and therefore the olive oil, is the lower quality of the oil that has been produced from the fruit which has not been affected but harvested and pressed as usual.

In Southern Spain - in a major olive growing area around Andalucia - there has been another problem - a drought - causing huge difficulties for growers whilst in Italy it is the olive fly that has caused the oil shortage.  In Puglia in the south of Italy it is the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa. There is no cure for this and the only solution is to burn the infected trees to stop the bacteria spreading. Thousands of olive trees in Puglia have already been burned so there is even less oil this year AND also for the next few years.

The cost of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has already doubled in the last few weeks (Nov 2014) and oil production in Italy is likely to be down by some 40% after the present dismal harvest.  Spain will not be able to make up for Italy's losses by exporting as much to Italy as they usually do, as they have big shortages of their own - particularly in the south owing to a drought in Andalucia. 

Greece and Turkey have largely been unaffected by the weather, olive fly, blight etc. so their production should be at normal levels but in general the price of good olive oil will be considerably more expensive next year (2015) - if you can get good EVO oil at all.  Also consumers must be even more diligent next year to read bottle labels carefully. Look for harvest dates so that you are not buying old oil from a long time ago.  The fraudsters are out there - just waiting for a shortage and an opportunity like this. 

We, at Haworth's, will NOT be producing or buying olive oil at all in 2015.  Like many producers in Tuscany we will not sell oil of dubious quality and doubtful origin.  We only want to sell good quality EVO oil from our own area around Immoglie, after full laboratory testing and at a reasonable price. So we will take a year off from oil sales until our next harvest this time next year in November/December 2015.  So buy your oil now while you can and while our limited stocks of the last excellent olive harvest are still available.

J Alan Haworth. 28 Nov. 2014

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The hamlet of Immoglie is part of the town area of Picinisco, set high in the mountains of Central Italy at nearly 600 metres (almost 2,000 feet high) and above the Val di Comino.

Olives have been cultivated in Immoglie for thousands of years, since Roman times and are still lovingly tended on a small scale by individual owners and families usually working year round and with only hand tools, including harvesting in late Autumn by the traditional method of nets spread under the trees, then picking by hand - using a ladder for higher branches.

Haworth’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Immoglie is produced mainly from the famous Leccino variety of olive tree - probably the best known and most sought-after olive cultivar used in the production of Italian olive oils, though its fruit is also prepared for consumption as a delicious and mild, table olive.

The Leccino variety is one of the older cultivars from Italy and is believed to have originated in Tuscany.  Having made its appearance in many other countries over the past 50 years, it is now found all over the world, due to the growing popularity of olive oil and the fact that the Leccino variety is highly productive in the right conditions.

The oil produced from the Leccino olive has a mild, sweet and delicate flavour and we are delighted to confirm that Haworth’s olive oil from Immoglie is solely the juice of the locally grown olive fruit – nothing more – nothing less – nothing added – nothing taken away. The oil is extracted only from Immoglie-grown olives, so we can absolutely guarantee it is not blended (with inferior olives or oils from other countries) but is purely Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil from locally grown olives.

PRUNING
The annual olive cultivation begins with pruning of the trees after the harvest – usually done in the winter/early spring. A primary objective of pruning is to produce clusters of olives that at harvest can be stripped off the tree in great showers. Good pruning will also prevent trees from becoming excessively tall and difficult to pick – though ladders will still be necessary to pick the olive fruits from most trees.

One of the important facts to emerge from the considerable scientific research conducted into every aspect of olive growing and oil production, is that the olive fruit requires strong sunlight at every stage from ‘fruit set’ to ‘harvesting’. So pruning is therefore necessary to reduce the density of the foliage and allow sunlight to penetrate into every part of the olive tree.
It is advantageous that every olive should be in direct sunlight for at least part of the day.

By pruning to reduce the density of the foliage we are reducing the tree’s tendency to shoot up and spread out in its search for more light.

ALTERNATE CROPPING
Olive trees are not the only tree crop to produce heavy then light crops alternately.  Apples trees have the same tendency to produce a large crop of small apples one year and a small crop of large fruit the next year. Similarly with olive trees - one year the tree will produce a large amount of vegetable growth and fewer olives, then the following year it will produce an abundant fruit crop. Pruning helps to even out the poor years and the bumper years.

It seems that unpruned olive trees either produce a large crop OR nothing – so pruning every year reduces this variation.

TREE SHAPE
There are 2 main shapes of olive tree – the Christmas Tree shape and the Vase (or open wine glass) shape.  By far the most popular in the Mediterranean area and the most practical for hand picking is the Vase shape which is recommended for Immoglie growers who have just a few trees or perhaps just a small grove.

FERTILISERS
More is not always better. Olive trees are not big feeders being semi-wild, hardy, tough plants that tolerate tough growing conditions - especially low fertility - better than most plants.
In fact olive trees tend to grow too vigorously in very fertile soils, growing too tall and producing little fruit with poor oil quality.
Olive trees respond much better to correct irrigation (enough but not too much water) and to weed control, than to fertilisation. If fertilising, then in Immoglie this is usually carried out in the winter months say every 3 or 4 years, unless a chemical deficiency in the soil is noticed which needs to be corrected more frequently.

HARVESTING
The olive fruit is usually harvested in Immoglie during November or December each year depending upon the grower’s requirements as to the oil flavour. For example, harvesting when olives are green or immature produces oil that is bitter and grassy. These early oils are certainly good for you being high in polyphenols (antioxidants which have been linked to better health) and high in other beneficial flavour components, resulting in a quite bitter flavour and a very pungent aroma but having a long shelf life because of these natural preservatives. The chlorophyll content is also high so these olive oils are often quite green in colour. However, it is more difficult to extract the oil from unripe olives as the oil paste requires malaxing (churning slowly or mixing) for a longer period of time, before pressing.

On the other hand black or mature fruit from a late harvest has lower polyphenol and chlorophyll contents producing oil that is more golden, less bitter and less pungent. These oils are described as ‘sweet oils’ and although they have a shorter shelf life, the oil yield from later harvesting of this more mature olive fruit, is high.

In Immoglie, it is usual to harvest when the olives are at the in-between, or ‘Veraison’ stage. As the olives mature from green to yellow-green they soften and the skins turn to a red-purple colour. The olives still have a high polyphenol content and are developing ripe-fruity characteristics. Oils produced from these olives have some bitterness and some pungency but olives at this stage of ripeness produce near to the maximum oil yield and are considered to be at their peak for olive oil production.

POLYPHENOLS
Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that contains polyphenols and true Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the only olive oil that contains significant quantities. 
Polyphenols are a class of antioxidents found in a variety of foods including red wine, green tea, chocolate, olive oil, etc. Antioxidents are widely accepted as having a beneficial ability to combat ageing as well as many other health benefits.

PRESSING
The next stage is the milling and pressing of the olives which involves washing, grinding the olives into a paste, malaxing (slowly churning or mixing), then separating the oil from the remaining water and solids. The last stage of separation (pressing) used to be carried out with stone presses but in modern mills separation is now carried out with a centrifuge machine which spins to separate out the oil.

In Immoglie, at the local frantoio (oil mill), until recently pressing was carried out using an original, old, stone press but more latterly has been changed to a centrifuge machine used in the best of modern conditions for efficiency, cleanliness and to produce the best olive oils to rank with anything produced worldwide. The frantoio opens for just a month or so each year for the olive harvest.

When looking to buy a good EVO oil, always check the vintage or harvest date. If there isn’t a date, then there is no way of knowing how old the oil really is.  Haworth's Immoglie olives are usually harvested in late November/early December each year, milled within a day and the resultant, much sought-after EVO oil is then stored in large tanks (with floating lids to exclude air) until bottled, as and when required, with bottle labels that clearly say when the olives were harvested.

Olive oil produced locally is usually not available for general sale being made on a small scale only, and so in very limited quantities. It is often kept by the owner for his own family consumption and for friends.

Here at Haworth’s we produce our own outstanding oil mainly from the Leccino olives grown by us and also locally grown around the hamlet of Immoglie, by individual owners with small groves so that our supplies of fresh harvest, Extra Virgin Olive Oil are also very limited and usually sell out within a few months after the harvest.

LABORATORY TESTING
Samples of our local oil are firstly sent to an eminent laboratory in the UK for tests to ascertain the level of FFA (Free Fatty Acid) and also to undergo a full chemical analysis of the oil sample.  Analysis (Feb 2014) of last year’s production   of just a few hundred 500ml bottles, confirms a very low FFA of just 0.22%. The maximum level set by the IOC (International Olive Council) is 0.8% - so that the level of FFA in our latest 2014 olive oil is down to almost a ¼ of the maximum level allowed for an oil to be called ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ (EVOO). So, our oil is well under the IOC standard limit.

When olive oil oxidises (in natural sunlight or artificial lights or by being open to the air) some of the fatty acid molecules (usually found together in batches of 3) break away forming FFA – free fatty acids which are expressed as a percentage of oleic acid. This is the main criterion level for FFA set at 0.8% maximum - ie under 1% - by the IOC for its top oil designation of ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’.

In addition, the full chemical analysis of our latest oil (copy and certificate can be seen below on a separate page) shows that the levels of all the allowable acids in the oil fat are well below the levels laid down by the IOC to be able to be included in the top designation – ‘Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ (EVOO).

Our oil is pure olive fruit juice sourced only from our own olive groves and those in and around Immoglie, so its origin is 100% Italian - not blended with inferior oils from other countries or with oil from previous ‘not so good years’.  It has no additives and no preservatives.  It is the first, cold, mechanical pressing, without the addition of chemicals, water or heat to extract the last drop of oil - as is practiced by many large producers – then calling the result ‘Olive Oil’ or ‘Virgin Olive Oil’ – much of which may have been imported from other countries - without controls - before blending, filtering and in many cases, extensive refining which may give the oil a slightly longer shelf life but also depletes any beneficial properties the oil may have had.

 

View the olive oil test certificate (pdf)

 

UNFILTERED - Filtering removes some of the beneficial Polyphenols and therefore some of the goodness and beneficial properties of the oil but it also removes odours and mustiness - which point to an older rancid oil. With this in mind filtering is practiced by some producers and manufacturers after blending with old or 'off' and suspect oils to improve the appearance, smell and taste and to slightly extend its shelf-life.  So our advice is to buy oils marked 'unfiltered' to be more sure that what you are getting has not been 'doctored' - assuming you can believe the wording 'unfiltered' on the label ....!

BOTTLES & LABELLING
Haworth’s Olive oil - grown, pressed and bottled in the area of Immoglie, in the mountains of Central Italy, is bottled using more expensive dark coloured glass. This is to improve and lengthen the life of the oil by reducing oxidisation through both artificial light and sunlight.  Some customers prefer to see the golden colour of the oil through clear glass bottles but clear glass bottles are not ideal for good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Clear glass or plastic bottles allow quicker oxidisation and are cheaper to produce and inferior to dark coloured glass bottles.

So although you cannot see the brilliant golden colour of Haworth's oil through our coloured bottles, do remember that your oil is better protected from sunlight and artificial light and will therefore retain more of the goodness, the polyphenols and the chlorophyll found naturally in Haworth’s EVOO. Our use of dark coloured glass bottles slows down the oxidisation process which results from exposure to light and so the shelf life of our oil is extended without adding chemicals and without filtering.

We use 2 labels on our bottles which doubles our packaging costs but better, we feel, to offer more information to customers about what the oil is, where it is from, when it was harvested and what level of FFA is contained in the oil.  Also by posting these olive oil pages on this website we are able to give a lot more detail about the chemical analysis of our oil, its production, preparation and packaging.  Finally, all the screw caps are covered with shrink-wrapped foil tops to ensure the oil contents are tamper-proof and inside the screw-on caps are plastic inserts to assist non-spill pouring.  The labels are fully waterproof so that after opening any oil drips will not ‘bleed’ the inks on the labels.

In short, we do all we can to ensure the quality of our olive oil is maximised and maintained from pruning to labelling and through each process in-between.

If you would like to buy some of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil it is only available through Haworth’s – please email - alan.haworth@virgin.net giving your delivery address and quantity of 500ml bottles required and we will email a quotation.


Haworth’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil – bottle labels for 2015 production
Click to enlarge

USES
This Premium Quality EVOO is best used for drizzling over salads or dipping with bread and perhaps balsamic vinegar or as a condiment dressing on traditional Italian dishes. 

For cooking, it is cheaper to buy standard oils – ordinary olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soy oil, etc.  This is suggested purely on the basis of saving money as you can certainly cook with our olive oil which can be used for high heat cooking without any sacrifice in its nutritional content.  Research has shown that the compounds found within olive oil that make it so healthy, can stand extremely high heat, as long as the oil is not heated passed its smoking point.

The smoke point of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is around 410 F and very hot cooking or frying is best at 356 F which is well below the smoke point of a good EVOO. This means that the cooking temperature can get relatively high with little or no damage or change in the chemical composition of the EVOO. In fact, even the most delicate olive oil won’t reach its smoking point when frying or very hot cooking. In addition, the traditional and distinctive taste associated with olive oil has been found to mostly survive traditional cooking methods.

So, when heated to cooking temperature a good EVO oil loses little of its beneficial polyphenols and its Omega 3 properties – olive oil is one of the best sources of the Omega 3 oil that we all NEED for healthy cardiovascular and nervous systems.  It must be remembered that ALL oils lose some of their nutritional properties and deteriorate when heated, but olive oil is better in this respect than other seed oils.  So nothing to worry about here – continue cooking with extra virgin olive oil if you want the best, as most other oils oxidise more readily when heated, than does extra virgin olive oil.

They say that heating all food destroys enzymes, denatures proteins, caramelizes sugars and reduces water, but that is irrelevant because olive oil contains practically non of these substances. In any case, we cook foods precisely because we want these things to happen to the food because that’s what makes it tastier and more easily digested.

Here is what the IOC (International Olive Council) say on the subject of cooking with extra virgin olive oil –  When heated, olive oil is the most stable fat, which means it stands up well to high frying temperatures. Its high smoke point (410ºF or 210ºC) is well above the ideal temperature for frying food (356ºF or 180ºC). The digestibility of olive oil is not affected when it is heated, even when it is re-used several times for frying.

So, it depends upon your pocket – you can either use Haworth’s Evoo for everything, including all your cooking - or cook more cheaply with lower quality oils and keep your Haworth’s for ‘best’ ……  your choice .....

Alan Haworth (May 2014)