` Greece's Early Harvest Olive Oils - Olive Oil Times

Greece's Early Harvest Olive Oils

Oct. 14, 2015
Lisa Radinovsky

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Early har­vest extra vir­gin olive oils can be more expen­sive and hard to find than other extra vir­gin oils since unripe olives pro­duce less oil and need to be picked right from the trees. Even so, more are find­ing their bit­ter taste, extra low acid­ity, and higher antiox­i­dant con­tent worth the money.

According to Agronews’ Alexander Bikas, early har­vest olive oil costs at least one euro more than con­ven­tional olive oil. Bikas wrote that the auc­tions of the Agricultural Cooperative of the Holy Apostles in Laconia, Greece, which saw the sale of oils pro­duced from Athinoelia and Messinia Koroneiki olives this month to the Italian com­pany Alta Marena for €4.60 per kilo­gram, rep­re­sent a barom­e­ter of olive oil prices in Greece,” which leads him to expect Greek EVOO pro­duced later in the sea­son to go for around €3.60.

Bikas also noted that very lim­ited quan­ti­ties of olive oil were pro­duced from unripe fruit in Greece last year. However, he empha­sized that its high polyphe­nol con­tent appeals to demand­ing for­eign mar­kets for both phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal use and the gourmet restau­rants of Italy, the USA and England.”

An authen­tic early har­vest olive oil needs very highly skilled peo­ple and car­ries the pas­sion of those peo­ple and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the region- Emmanouil Karpadakis, Terra Creta

Argyris Bouras, owner of Eleones Hellenic Olive Products, told Olive Oil Times that he does not believe early har­vest olive oils are pop­u­lar in Greek stores, although Italians like to use early har­vest Greek oils to blend and upgrade low grade olive oils.” On the other hand, many farm­ers might sim­ply keep the first oil of the sea­son for their own fam­ily and friends leav­ing lit­tle avail­able for the marketplace.

Nevertheless, Agronews lists sev­eral advan­tages to press­ing unripe olives: gath­er­ing fruit early gives the trees a break that leads to high returns every year; har­vest­ing early reduces the chance of dam­age to olives from frost, hail and sim­i­lar weather prob­lems, thus reduc­ing farm­ers’ risks; and the excel­lent nutri­tional value of early har­vest olive oil is acknowl­edged world­wide, which makes it a super-weapon” for olive oil farm­ers and producers.

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The higher chloro­phyll con­tent in unripe olives makes the early har­vest oil, called agoure­lio” in Greek, greener and richer in healthy polyphe­nols. According to the abstract of a recent study, there is a pos­i­tive cor­re­la­tion of a high level of oleo­can­thal and olea­cein in olive oils with the early time of harvest.”

To pro­mote local agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, the Regional Unit of Halkidiki in north­ern Greece com­mis­sioned an analy­sis of 32 sam­ples from the Halkidiki early olive oil har­vest of 2014 – 15 by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Department of Pharmacognosy and Chemistry of Natural Products. The results of the study, which used the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) method devel­oped by Dr. Prokopios Magiatis, were said to prove the high nutri­tional value of Halkidiki early har­vest olive oil com­pared with other Greek and for­eign extra vir­gin olive oils, given its rich­ness in oleo­can­thal and oleacein.

The aver­age polyphe­nol con­tent in the sam­ples from Halkidiki was 495 mg/kg, com­pared with an inter­na­tional aver­age of 330 mg/kg. Yanni’s Limited PDO Halkidiki Early Harvest boasted the high­est level: 1026 mg/kg.

Since 2013, some of the oil that meets the appro­pri­ate high qual­ity and pro­duc­tion require­ments, includ­ing milling by October 15, has been dis­tin­guished by PDO sta­tus as Agoureleo Chalkidikis.” The polyphe­nols iden­ti­fied in the Halkidiki early har­vest oils have been cred­ited with sig­nif­i­cant anti-inflam­ma­tory, antiox­i­dant, car­dio­pro­tec­tive and neu­ro­pro­tec­tive properties.

Early har­vest olive oils out­side Halkidiki have also shown the high polyphe­nol con­tent asso­ci­ated with health ben­e­fits. For exam­ple, a test of the Governor brand’s unfil­tered EVOO using the NMR method showed the high­est lev­els of phe­no­lic com­pounds ever recorded in Greece,” 1141 mg/kg, accord­ing to the company’s web­site. George Dafnis, co-owner of Olive Fabrica, which pro­duces this oil, told Olive Oil Times the early har­vest of the Lianolia olives in Corfu begins in mid-October each year.

Early har­vest” can refer to dif­fer­ent har­vest times in dif­fer­ent parts of Greece, given vari­a­tions in cli­mate, olive vari­ety, and ele­va­tion. Argyris Bouras explained that the first olive oil of the year comes from Halkidiki, which is more famous for Greece’s largest table olives, the green Hondrolia. Eleones Early Harvest is pro­duced in lim­ited quan­ti­ties from olives hand­picked begin­ning as early as mid-September, pressed the same day, and bot­tled in Halkidiki. According to Bouras, Eleones Early Harvest (acid­ity 0.17) has a shelf life of up to 18 months, rather than the usual 9 – 10 months for many early har­vest oils, because the high lev­els of antiox­i­dants of Halkidiki delay oxidation.

It is pos­si­ble to find early har­vest Greek extra vir­gin olive oils pro­duced as late as early November, such as Militsa Limited Release Early Harvest EVOO or Esti Early Harvest, which won a Gold Award at the 2014 NYIOOC. These are both made from Koroneiki olives hand-har­vested in the south­ern Peloponnese.

However, mid October is a more com­mon time for early har­vest olive oil pro­duc­tion in most of Greece. For exam­ple, the Olive Table’s Organic Early Harvest Single Estate EVOO orig­i­nates in fam­ily-owned Koroneiki olive groves in the moun­tain vil­lage of Christianoupolis in Messenia, slightly north­west of Militsa, where the unripe olives are hand­picked start­ing in the sec­ond or third week of October and crushed within hours of harvesting.

Within the next few weeks, Terra Creta in Kolymvari, Crete will begin offer­ing its first early har­vest extra vir­gin, with just 4,000 bot­tles of spicy EVOO pro­duced from Koroneiki olives har­vested in mid-October. Marketing Manager Emmanouil Karpadakis empha­sized that a spe­cial­ized group of pro­fes­sional farm­ers” with sci­en­tific sup­port” will bring the olives to the mill only a few hours from har­vest­ing. An authen­tic early har­vest olive oil needs very highly skilled peo­ple and car­ries the pas­sion of those peo­ple and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the region,” he said.


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