The 2014 season has been interesting for olives across the board…
We did not get much rain in 2013, so by the time the olive came to fruit, they had faced 10 months of drought.
We believing in partnering with nature rather than altering it, so we chose to let the winter patterns be natural and see where it would take our fruit. In the early weeks of summer we did not irrigate, as we typically would. Our trees were dry throughout the warm season, without the high water table that should have been deep in the earth, causing us concern.
As Summer turned to Fall, more unusual weather came upon us. Rather than the days cooling at dusk, bringing us chill into the nights, we had consistent warmth. For most of us, these Indian Summers bring pure delight, but for our olives, we were not so sure. There is a theory that tells us that trees continue to put energy into the leaf and stem growth, as long as the warm weather is conducive to active metabolic activity. And only when it cools off, will they redirect their energy into the fruit and seed development. Think about us, human beings, when the weather is warm, we want to put our energy into high metabolic activity, hiking, biking, and so on. When the weather cools, we feel more inclined to nurture our bodies; eat, drink, and be merry. Plants are like us, we are like plants; living things, we do what feels right to survive.
In a normal year, we typically harvest our olives the third week of October. At this time, our olives show us they are ready, with 25% of them being ripe, and purple in color, and the remaining 75% still a bit young, showing green tones. This year, right on time our olives changed colors, seeming ready to harvest. But our gut made us question, should we do as the olive’s color tells us, or what the fruit would want from our climate? Since we suspect to have a few more dry year’s ahead of us, we decided this would be a good year to see if we can work with the changes nature is giving to us, and still create an oil that is as magnificent as we have ad in the past. It was not until November 11, that we felt our fruit was happy enough for our first harvest, almost 4 weeks later than most. By making this choice, we were harvesting olives that were now 95% purple, something extremely different than what we have done in past years. We know we were taking a chance, but, sometimes, the bigger the risk, the bigger the success.
As we do every year, we took the olives to the press the day of harvest, and were delighted to find our oil was very flavorful and that waiting was the right thing to do. We bottled immediately to capture its fresh, fruity, and floral qualities.
When we harvested the second time, our olives had been exposed to a few frosty nights. We picked the remaining Arbequina olives, and also added Frantoio and Mission olives to the harvest. These latter varieties ripen later and have stronger concentrations of phenols that allow the oil to hold flavor for a longer period of time. We feel blessed that we chose to follow our instincts, and did what nature wanted us to do, because our second harvest came out just as good as the first, if not better. This second batch has a much more intense flavor profile due to colder weather, later timing and different varieties. Blending Mission and Frantoio with the floral and fruity Arbequina creates a beautifully balanced oil, and since these flavors last well, we have used this field blend in our second bottling mid-year.
We are thrilled with how our Capay Oaks Farm Olive Oil has turned out, and we hope you get the opportunity to enjoy it too!