Terroir is the special quality and taste that food has because of where it was grown. “Farmers the world over know this about their soil,” says Farmer Al. “It’s always going to give special characteristics to your food year over year. Wine is famous for that.”
A delicacy that doesn’t get nearly as much attention for how region and climate affect its quality is olive oil. While many of us might think of it merely as a cooking add-on or replacement for butter, it’s a product with a lot of depth and many hundreds of flavor profiles to choose from.
Frog Hollow Farm produces and sells Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil with our longtime friends and partners in olive oil production at McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, California. “One thing I wish people knew is what really good quality tastes like,” says McEvoy’s President, Samantha Dorsey. “There isn’t just one taste. There are many, many hundreds that are all extraordinary. And equally, there’s many flavor profiles in peoples’ pantries that are actually just really crummy olive oil!”
Refined, complex, amazing flavor in olive oil comes from three things: 1) how we grow the olive trees, 2) how we pick the olives, and 3) how we process the fruit into oil.
“We have a lot of summer heat here in California,” says Farmer Al. “There’s a greater synergy between the intense light we have, the heat, and the energy in the soil. It’s a happy conjunction, a conversion of different elements of nature to create one of the more delicious olive oils of the world.”
Frog Hollow Farm and McEvoy Ranch are both very conscious of the health of their soils. The more nutrient-rich the soil, the healthier the olives.* Healthy soil also contains lots of tiny microbes that help transport nutrients from the ground to the plant, fight against drought and frost, and protect against disease.* You should see how tall our olive trees on the farm are—practically 30ft up in the air and almost equally wide. More than 400 of them stand tall throughout our 280 acres, acting as windbreakers for the neighboring stone fruit trees. The olive trees contribute to the overall health of our farm just by existing. And our trees produce a huge amount of oil after our fall harvest season: two gallons per tree, on average! That’s almost double the industry standard.
When Farmer Al first decided to grow Italian-based olives locally, he wanted to respect the traditional growing techniques of the Italian olive. Chef Becky and Farmer Al visited Italy to understand and learn the methods of ancient olive production. When they returned from their trip, they chose four Tuscan varieties to grow in their Brentwood, California, soil – Frantoio, Leccino, Maurino, and Pendolino.
Day-to-day health benefits
Early harvest is fundamental to the ancient Tuscan olive tradition. And the earlier the harvest, the higher the polyphenol levels (a type of antioxidant). Polyphenols give the oil that greener, more herbaceous, complex flavor. And the levels in Frog Hollow and McEvoy’s olive oils are off the charts.
Polyphenols provide all sorts of benefits for the body, inside and out. They reduce inflammation and soothe and protect the skin. Olive oil in general lowers blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.*
Long-term health benefits
A particular polyphenol in olive oil (called oleocanthal) helps protect the brain from toxins that cause Alzheimer’s.* Consuming olive oil lowers one’s risk of stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis.** Extra virgin olive oil is even linked to reducing the risk of some types of cancers.* And an olive oil-rich diet can help decrease damage caused by oxidative stress associated with diabetes. Scientists are only beginning to understand the many benefits.
A healthy planet
Eating food that’s grown by local farmers, caught in local waters, or raised in local pastures is not just a chef-driven trend, but a practice with significant history and one that has a beneficial effect on body, community, and planet.
The Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil we produce with McEvoy Ranch is the perfect place to start. Rich in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, and cold-pressed, it’s a great way to help bolster your heart health. Our extra virgin olive oil doesn’t undergo any chemical refining. Because we take care in growing and harvesting our olives, all we have to do is grind them and bottle the extracted oils. The flavors are rich and authentic. And like all our fruit, these olives are certified organic.
We think long-term about the health of our soil and our farm, so it follows that we produce products that think long-term about our human health as well. Healthy ecosystems, food systems, planet. It’s all connected.