Olive Oil Crush

Greg Hin­son of O Olive Oils takes or­ganic olives and com­bines them with Cal­i­for­nia cit­rus, and the re­sult is pure magic

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY NEIL ZEVNIK

Fu­sion olive oil? Yes, please!

In Italy, lo­cally pro­duced olive oil has al­ways been a so­cial main­stay to be revered, guarded, and shared. It is a sin­gu­lar of­fer­ing that ex­presses the char­ac­ter of its re­gion and even of the fam­ily that har­vested and milled it. By the same to­ken, at­ti­tudes to­ward how it should be ren­dered and de­scribed have re­mained the same for cen­turies— rather strict and spe­cific. No mess­ing about with tra­di­tion!

Then along came Greg Hin­son, an Amer­i­can wan­derer tak­ing his in­fant daugh­ter on day trips about the Ital­ian coun­try­side. “I was dis­cov­er­ing the magic of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil and the so­cial bonds be­tween fam­i­lies, their pas­sion for olive oil, and how they traded oil be­tween them­selves. And I learned that there were so many styles of olive oil that were spe­cific to types of dishes. I found that fas­ci­nat­ing and wanted to learn more.”

What es­pe­cially in­trigued him was some­thing al­most in­vis­i­ble to the Ital­ians—they were us­ing whole fresh lemons as an as­trin­gent to clean the gran­ite milling wheels at the end of the har­vest, and then dis­card­ing the re­sult­ing liquor. That’s when the light bulb went on for Hin­son.

So he re­turned to Cal­i­for­nia a year later, rented an old olive oil press, and be­gan his ex­per­i­ment of crush­ing whole or­ganic Meyer lemons with for­aged Mis­sion olives. And that was the be­gin­ning of this new ir­rev­er­ent cat­e­gory of cit­rus-crushed olive oil.

His first grow­ers were or­ganic pi­o­neers who used so­lar, bio­dy­namic,

and fish emul­sion feed­ing pro­grams be­fore they were cool or widely prac­ticed. “We grew to­gether,” he says. “They planted more trees, and I made more olive oil. I was con­nected sud­denly to pas­sion­ate farm­ers who taught me that the health of the soil, water, and air is key to grow­ing nutri­tious, healthy food.”

The road, of course, was not al­ways smooth. Ini­tially re­jected by olive oil fes­ti­vals in Cal­i­for­nia as be­ing “not real olive oil,” Greg per­se­vered. “I thought, this is the same re­ac­tion as in Italy, but this is Cal­i­for­nia, and we don’t have to re­peat the same nar­row in­ter­pre­ta­tion as the Old World, right?”

Through it all, his fo­cus has al­ways been on the pu­rity of the prod­uct and the process. “This prod­uct’s sim­plic­ity is what still amazes me. It is two per­fect foods com­bined and crushed to­gether. That’s it.

“I’ve been a vo­cal ad­vo­cate for or­ganic farm­ing be­gin­ning with my first olive oil crush in 1995. My farm­ers had an old-school rev­er­ence for the land that was in their bones and in the way they lived their lives. We are now plant­ing over 1,700 new acres of or­ganic olives and con­vert­ing con­ven­tional or­chards to or­ganic with an­other 500 acres. What I’ve learned is that if you cre­ate a mar­ket and pay a sus­tain­able price to your farm­ing part­ners, they will walk to­gether with you.” And that is def­i­nitely a walk worth tak­ing.

“I’ve been a vo­cal ad­vo­cate for or­ganic farm­ing be­gin­ning with my first olive oil crush in 1995,” says O founder Greg Hin­son. “My farm­ers had an old-school rev­er­ence for the land that was in their bones.”

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