Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cultivation Process
i) Maximize Yields
ii) Ensure Fruit Quality
iii) Ensure Biodiversity
In the era of Climate Change, olive tree farming is not just about food production any more. Of course, to ensure financial sustainability of our family business, we need to ensure sufficient fruit production, but not on the expense of consumer safety and environmental stability.
Securing high quality fruit means that we need to create fully healthy olive fruit, without wounds, lack of nutrients and of course complete absence of herbicides or pesticides. This is why we employ organic practices of cultivation.
Biodiversity is the key concept of a healthy habitat. In that context, we strive to cultivate our trees as part of a greater ecosystem. This means that a great deal of our focus is given on soil health. On of our greatest key metrics, is soil biology diversity. We do that by adopting regenerative agriculture practices.
When approximately 80% of our olives are in index 2 of maturity, harvesting time has come!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Harvesting Process
Timing of harvest is a very crucial factor in the resulting olive oil quality. For example, maturity levels affect both concentration of health-protecting polyphenols and concentration of olive oil per fruit. As a matter of fact, from a point and on, the more the fruit ripen, the more oil concentration increases and the more polyphenol concentrations decrease.
For this reason, we choose to harvest our olives when approximately 80% of them is in maturity index 2. Our observations over the years, and various studies, show that when the olive fruit starts turning red / purple, both polyphenols and olive oil concentration hit the sweet spot. Making that choice, we potentially do not receive maximum olive oil yields, however we do this consciously, since we prefer to secure our olive oil's healthy properties for our customers.
Quality Factors while Harvesting:
i) We hand-pick olives or use the traditional wooden rods called "luros" that are designed to not hurt the fruit, branches or leaves. We do not use fossil-fuel powered equipment, since this could increase the risk of mineral oils sticking on the fruit and thus contaminating the olive oil. On top of that, we do not release unnecessary CO2 on the atmosphere.
ii) We let olive fruit fall on plastic-free nets which are perforated and neither destroy the vegetation below, nor cause increased temperatures that can affect olive fruit quality.
iii) Olives are then stored in perforated trays that allow air to go through, eventually not increasing humidity and temperature, while not allowing CO2, naturally resulting from olive fruit breathing, to concentrate and affect fruit quality.
Pressing should be taking place as soon as possible, once the olives have been cut off of the tree. In Myrolion, we typically start pressing olives on the same day or 24-hours later, at a maximum.
The choice of an appropriate olive mill is fundamental and a number of consideration should be taken into account for the malaxation process.
i) We minimize time between harvesting and malaxation, we never go more than 24 hours.
ii) A 2-phase extraction system, clearly favours high phenolic concentrations as compared to the 3-phase system. In a 3-phase system, the amount of water provided greatly limits polyphenol compounds in the oil. This is why we now press our olives in a 2-phase olive press.
The malaxation temperature must be sufficiently low to minimize the enzymatic bio-transformation of the polyphenols by the action of peroxidases and phenoloxidases. This bio-transformation is minimized If the temperature of the process does not exceed 28 degrees Celsius, essentially allowing us to create cold-pressed olive oil.
On the other hand, the enzymatic activity of glucosidases and esterases, the main enzyme involved in the bio-transformation of oleuropein and ligustroside, does not trigger below 24 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the temperature range should be controlled for the entire extraction process between 25-28 degrees Celsius.
Duration of Malaxation
The general trend is that the malaxation time should not exceed 45'-60', although it's a parameter that depends on the olive fruit variety. We typically keep malaxation duration at a maximum of 30'.
Storing is Crucial
Olive oil storage is another crucial factor for the resulting olive oil quality.
In Myrolion, we make sure to filter our fresh olive oil within 3 days from production, in order to protect the olive oil polyphenols from hydrolysis and to increase the shelf-life of our product.
After this our fresh extra virgin, organic, high-phenolic olive oil is stored in 500lt stainless containers.
i) Lack of Oxygen
ii) Lack of Light
iii) Lack of Humidity
iv) Up to 18 degrees Celsius
This process ensures that our olive oil will have maximum shelf-life and will remain safe, luscious and healthy until we share it with our friends!