Book Lays Out Best Practices for Olive Oil Production in Greece

In his third book, Vasilios Frantzolas dispels production myths still prevalent in Greece.
Vasilios Frantzolas
Sep. 29, 2021
Costas Vasilopoulos

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In the pub­lish­ing annals of the Greek olive oil sec­tor, Vasilios Frantzolas’s new book is prob­a­bly the first to thor­oughly present the com­plete steps to achieve qual­ity in olive oil pro­duc­tion from the field to bot­tle.

Modern Olive Oil Growing Techniques and Quality Olive Oil Production is Frantzolas’s third book in the field of olive oil mak­ing, filled with use­ful infor­ma­tion for olive tree grow­ers, pro­duc­ers, millers and bot­tlers.

We need to apply new prac­tices in order to become more ratio­nal at fer­til­iz­ing, water­ing and prun­ing the olive trees, and to opti­mize the pro­cess­ing of olives.- Vasilios Frantzola, author

In this book, I present the most recent knowl­edge and the most mod­ern tech­niques of har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing olives, based on my research and work as a tutor in sem­i­nars for over 18 years,” Frantzolas told Olive Oil Times.

See Also: Best Olive Oils From Greece

An expert olive oil taster and qual­ity con­sul­tant, Frantzolas inher­ited his love for olive and olive oil along with the fam­ily olive groves in the Peloponnese.

His father and men­tor, Tasos, intro­duced him to the world of qual­ity olive oil, being the first in Greece to pack­age extra vir­gin olive oil in plas­tic bot­tles back in 1969.

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My father was a resource­ful man,” Frantzolas said. He had patented a sys­tem he had devised for safely fill­ing and cap­ping the bot­tles of olive oil. I remem­ber myself as a kid fill­ing up bot­tles in our base­ment and then run­ning to the mar­ket to sell them.”

A career shift from civil engi­neer­ing was immi­nent for Frantzolas, who soon decided to turn his pas­sion into a pro­fes­sion; he expanded his stud­ies to food pol­icy and indulged him­self in explor­ing the ins and outs of mak­ing olive oil.

Over the years, through learn­ing, exper­i­ment­ing and work­ing together with other indus­try pro­fes­sion­als, Frantzolas has accu­mu­lated a large amount of knowl­edge cov­er­ing the full spec­trum of olive oil pro­duc­tion. He then started to con­vey his mas­tery of craft­ing qual­ity olive oil to olive grow­ers and pro­duc­ers by orga­niz­ing and teach­ing sem­i­nars.

At the same time, he has man­aged to stay close to the most recent devel­op­ments in the field by set­ting up col­lab­o­ra­tion chan­nels with uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sors across Europe and keep­ing track of aca­d­e­mic papers and other pub­li­ca­tions in the field of olive oil.

A large part of the infor­ma­tion included in the book is the result of my edu­ca­tional trips abroad to var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties, like those of Pisa and Perugia in Italy and the Institute for Food and Agricultural Research and Technology in Catalonia,” Frantzolas said.

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His lat­est piece of writ­ing also con­tains details rarely found in the rel­e­vant lit­er­a­ture in Greece, such as defin­ing the cor­rect time in the sea­son for pick­ing olives, explain­ing olive oil fil­ter­ing, and describ­ing the avail­able solu­tions for stor­ing olive oil after milling.

I also wanted to pro­vide prac­ti­cal advice to grow­ers, pro­duc­ers and millers on var­i­ous impor­tant mat­ters, like the advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of water­ing the olive trees or how to treat emul­sions dur­ing olives pro­cess­ing,” the author said.

The book starts in the olive grove, high­light­ing the impor­tance of the organic mat­ter con­tained in the soil to the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the olive trees.

Frantzolas also sug­gests that the soil ben­e­fits from avoid­ing fre­quent har­row­ing and by let­ting nature take over to allow other small plants and grass to grow. This way, ero­sion is avoided and the rain­wa­ter bet­ter pen­e­trates and remains in the soil.

An impor­tant aspect of mod­ern olive tree grow­ing is fer­til­iza­tion. While fer­til­iz­ers sig­nif­i­cantly con­tribute to the increased pro­duc­tiv­ity of the olive trees, it is essen­tial to use them in mod­er­a­tion and after exam­in­ing the nutri­tional require­ments of the trees.

A sit­u­a­tion encoun­tered in many olive groves is over-fer­til­iza­tion using nitroge­nous fer­til­iz­ers,” Frantzolas said. This prac­tice can lead to reduced fruition of the trees and also have a neg­a­tive impact on the phe­nols con­tained in the pro­duced olive oil.”

Frantzolas also main­tains in his book that when non-irri­gated olive groves are con­verted to irri­gated, the gain for pro­duc­ers is sig­nif­i­cant with an increase between 60 per­cent and 300 per­cent in the quan­tity of the olive oil pro­duced.

He also points out that a largely unknown ben­e­fit of mod­er­ate irri­ga­tion is the improve­ment of the olive oil’s sen­sory pro­file.

Irrigation favors the blos­som­ing of the olive trees and increases the num­ber of dru­pes and the quan­tity of the oil they con­tain,” he said. But maybe the least known advan­tage of irri­ga­tion is that it increases the aro­mas of the olive oil.”

However, improv­i­dent use of irri­ga­tion water will ulti­mately reduce the bit­ter­ness and pun­gency of the oil since it low­ers the quan­tity of phe­no­lic com­pounds,” he added. This must be care­fully con­sid­ered with rel­a­tively low-phe­no­lic vari­eties like Arbequina.”

Besides lay­ing out the proper meth­ods of olive grow­ing, har­vest­ing and milling, the author went the extra mile to clear up false per­cep­tions that are still preva­lent through­out the sec­tor in Greece.

In his book, he strongly crit­i­cizes the char­ac­ter­is­tic Greek phe­nom­e­non of prun­ing the olive trees dur­ing har­vest, which ulti­mately leads to a sub­stan­tial loss of the pro­duc­ers’ income.

It is a false prac­tice fol­lowed by pro­duc­ers in many ter­ri­to­ries of Greece,” Frantzolas said. Pruning is applied amid har­vest to pick the olives from the cut­off branches and reduce the work­load. However, no real rules of prop­erly treat­ing the trees apply in this case and con­se­quently, the trees lose a cru­cial part of their body and foliage and fail to pro­duce enough olive fruits the next sea­son.”

He also advises that, with most olive vari­eties, the best time to pick the olive fruits is when their color has become yel­low to green rather than pur­ple to black. At that stage, no more oil con­cen­trates in the dru­pes and the olives are more exposed to the fruit fly and other pathogens if left unpicked.

A large part of the book is devoted to the milling of olives, describ­ing all the mod­ern-day equip­ment used and the meth­ods applic­a­ble to the extrac­tion of olive oil.

The infor­ma­tion is pre­sented in a lin­ear man­ner and in accor­dance with the dif­fer­ent stages of olives pro­cess­ing in every mod­ern olive oil mill, begin­ning with the leaf removal and the wash­ing of the olives and end­ing with the fil­ter­ing of the olive oil which takes place at the end of the extrac­tion process.

Master millers will find every answer they seek about olive pro­cess­ing in this chap­ter, being able to increase the quan­tity and most impor­tantly the sought-after qual­ity that makes the dif­fer­ence in today’s olive oil world,” Frantzolas said.

In advance, the author presents new devel­op­ments in the extrac­tion process of olive oil, such as the rapid warm­ing and cool­ing treat­ment of the olive paste before enter­ing the knead­ing trough, which reduces the required time for malax­a­tion and improves the organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the olive oil.

Frantzolas explained that the tech­nique could prove use­ful in areas where higher than usual tem­per­a­tures are expected to be the norm in the com­ing years due to cli­mate change, includ­ing Crete and the south­ern Peloponnese.

The olive dru­pes are already at a high tem­per­a­ture at the time of har­vest as a result of warm weather, so the rapid cool­ing of the olive paste before malax­a­tion coun­ter­acts the abnor­mal increase of the dru­pes’ tem­per­a­ture lead­ing to an olive oil of higher qual­ity.

No mat­ter the devel­op­ments and solu­tions the advance­ment of tech­nol­ogy offers, the author insists that progress in the sec­tor can­not be obtained with­out proper train­ing and in-depth famil­iar­ity with the require­ments of olive oil mak­ing.

The book is devoted to the olive grow­ers, pro­duc­ers and millers of Greece, with the expec­ta­tion to be read and the knowl­edge to be dis­sem­i­nated,” Frantzolas wrote in the book’s pref­ace.

We need to apply new prac­tices in order to become more ratio­nal at fer­til­iz­ing, water­ing and prun­ing the olive trees, and to opti­mize the pro­cess­ing of olives,” he added. Only by improv­ing our knowl­edge and our meth­ods in all the stages of olive oil pro­duc­tion, we will be able to increase the out­put capac­ity of our olive groves and also ele­vate the qual­ity of our olive oils.”


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