Are the following words types of cheese, pasta, grapes or olives: frantoio, koroneiki, leccino, pendolino, picholine, picual?
If you answered olives, you would be right. But even more interesting than their unusual names is that they are grown in the Waikato. Believe it or not, the Waikato, New Zealand’s premier farming region, produces more than great meat, milk and cheese. A group of around forty olive growers, including retired farmers, an accountant, a marketer, a builder, and a debt collector are now producing extra virgin olive oil – this year about 1500 litres of it – and it tastes yummy. I know because my uncle Richard is one of them. A born and bred sheep and cattle farmer, he now makes delicious, nutritious extra virgin olive oil. He has just sent me three bottles and I can’t wait to try it.
What I like about this oil is that each bottle is made from pressing just one type of olive. The Olive Estate (that’s the brand name of the oil this group produces) doesn’t blend varieties. Not that there’s anything wrong with blending but it is fun to taste the difference between a koroneiki and a frantoio. From a nutritional view point the most important thing is that this oil is extra virgin. ‘Extra virgin’ is the best quality oil made from the first press of the olives. It is the richest in antioxidants and other nutrients. Virgin olive oil is made from a second pressing so it’s not quite as good as extra virgin. Lower down the quality scale you have ‘pure’ and ‘light’ olive oil. ‘Light’ olive oil is simply a lighter flavour and colour – it’s no lighter in kilojoules or fat!
If you want to try a little extra virgin pendolino, visit the farmers markets at Pirongia, Morrinsville and Tamahere, or e-mail: theoliveestate at yahoo.co.nz — As for me, I’m looking forward to drizzling some of the koroneiki olive oil over a classic Italian salad of fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil. Thanks, Uncle Richard!