` Corfu Farmer Strikes Green Gold

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Corfu Farmer Strikes Green Gold

Sep. 8, 2014
By Athan Gadanidis

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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.”

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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?

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

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