`Corfu Farmer Strikes Green Gold - Olive Oil Times

Corfu Farmer Strikes Green Gold

By Athan Gadanidis
Sep. 8, 2014 13:41 UTC
The Dafnis farm in Corfu, Greece

Corfu has been known as a Mediterranean tourist des­ti­na­tion for decades but it has not been par­tic­u­larly known for pro­duc­ing excep­tional olive oil. That could be chang­ing.

Spyros Dafnis, a recent University of Economics grad­u­ate whose fam­ily owns an olive mill in Corfu decided to try a new method of har­vest­ing and milling the olives to see if he could get bet­ter results.

The main vari­etal is called Lianolia and is found almost exclu­sively in Corfu. Lianolia grows excep­tion­ally tall some­times reach­ing 18 meters (59 feet), mak­ing it very dif­fi­cult to har­vest the olives early. Farmers usu­ally wait until late in the sea­son when the olives prac­ti­cally fall on their own onto nets laid on the ground.

Dafnis explained what moti­vated him and his fam­ily to break with cen­turies of tra­di­tion of how olives were har­vested and milled.

Our idea was born amid the cri­sis in our coun­try in recent years. As an anti­dote to the cri­sis, we embraced the rev­o­lu­tion.” A rev­o­lu­tion of cre­ativ­ity, inno­va­tion and knowl­edge. For this to hap­pen we needed to think alter­na­tively and act uncon­ven­tion­ally.

The Governor” olive oil

We saw around us a nat­ural wealth left at the mercy of tra­di­tion which resulted in a prod­uct that dis­hon­oured itself by not real­iz­ing its full poten­tial. So we decided to pur­sue our dream by break­ing the tra­di­tion that our island could not pro­duce high qual­ity olive oil.”

Mr. Dafnis and his brother Giorgos, together with the enthu­si­as­tic sup­port of their fam­ily, stud­ied research papers on olive oils con­tain­ing high phe­no­lic lev­els. They decided to aban­don the tra­di­tional method of har­vest­ing with the goal of pro­duc­ing a pre­mium high phe­no­lic EVOO.

It was a gam­ble. They acquired a mechan­i­cal shaker in order to begin the har­vest in mid-October, they low­ered the tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the malax­a­tion phase, elim­i­nated the use of water and the use of a cen­trifuge. They had their EVOO tested using the new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) method recently devel­oped by Dr. Prokopios Magiatis at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

Their EVOO made exclu­sively from Lianolia vari­etal con­tained the high­est lev­els of phe­no­lic com­pounds ever recorded in Greece.

They expected the olive oil to be good, but did not imag­ine it would be this excep­tional:

Oleocanthal: 680 mg/Κg
Oleacein: 350 mg/Kg
Oleuropein agly­con: 53mg/Kg
Ligstroside agly­con: 58mg/Kg

Over 1 gram of phe­no­lic com­pounds per kilo (total 1141 mg/Kg)

Within two years of ded­i­cated study and appli­ca­tion the Dafnis fam­ily has put Corfu and the Lianolia vari­ety firmly on the world olive oil map.

Lianolia olive trees grow excep­tion­ally tall some­times reach­ing 18 meters (59 feet).

In antic­i­pa­tion of a pos­i­tive result they also cre­ated an olive bot­tle design and a brand name. Their brand, The Governor.” (The name was inspired by Ioannis Kapodistrias who was born in Corfu and was the first elected head of state or The Governor” of newly-lib­er­ated Greece in 1828. He was known as a reformer and edu­ca­tor who built the first uni­ver­sity in mod­ern Greece where, coin­ci­den­tally, the NMR method was invented.)

The Governor was awarded Golden Star at the Great Taste Awards and the sil­ver medal at a com­pe­ti­tion in Japan this year.

Producing an EVOO that com­bines extremely high phe­no­lic con­tent with award win­ning taste is not an easy task. Spyros and fam­ily are intent on con­tin­u­ing their exper­i­ments and shar­ing they knowl­edge they have gained with other olive grow­ers from Corfu and around the world.

The ori­gin of the Lianolia vari­ety found almost exclu­sively on Corfu is said to have been brought to the Island dur­ing the Venetian rule of Corfu about 500 years ago. Its true ori­gin is shrouded in mys­tery.

Homer men­tions Corfu in The Odyssey as hav­ing olive trees. This was thou­sands of years before Venetian rule. How and why did the local vari­eties dis­ap­pear?

Perhaps now there will be a renewed sci­en­tific inter­est to dis­cover where the Lianolia olive orig­i­nated.


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