Koronecki: From Tree to Table

I grew up around olive trees and my brother, Mike, makes olive oil in California. As kids he once convinced me to eat a raw Mission olive, saying it was just like those in the can, only free. You only fall for that one once because there is nothing more unpleasant than olives right off the tree. Something has to be done with them. Like turning them into oil.

Olive trees are innumerable at the gorgeous Westin resort at Costa Navarino,Greece  (www.costanavarino.com) the lush green area of Messinia. About 7,000 of them were transplanted to the http://www.raybanoutletes.com/ resort when a reservoir was dug not far away. (All but 3 survived.) Many of them are fairly young while others are old and venerable.  The variety is Koronecki, a modest tree that produces very small olives that are harvested green and transformed into a lively, pungent oil. (The city of Kalamata is not far from the resort, so Kalamata olives grow in the area too, but those big meaty fruits are for eating, not pressing into oil.)

My brother grows some Koronecki olives and presses them as a single varietal. His trees are many but his crop is small. “You think you’re picking a lot, but they’re so small they’re never as many as you want,” he says, something that was corroborated during my recent visit to Costa Navarino.

Harvesters at Costa Navorino

October is when the harvest starts and I was fortunate to witness its beginning. Rather than picking the olives from the branches, as my brother does, the trees were first pruned of their large branches, then beaten to release the olives onto the nets on the ground.  It takes a strong motion of your Gafas Ray Ban outlet whole arm to separate the olives from their branches; they’re too green to come off voluntarily. Although it looks easy, it’s not, and I speak from experience for I gave it try.  Once the trees are well picked, the larger branches are tossed aside, smaller clumps of leaves deftly picked out by the workers, the olives are poured form their net into sacks, then off they go to the mill.

I got to tag along for the next part, their transformation into a golden green elixir. Time is of great importance when it comes to making oil. If the olives aren’t pressed within 24 hours (and preferably sooner), they begin to deteriorate and rancidity sets in, so there’s a definite sense of urgency. As soon as the olives were picked, packed and loaded into a pick-up, we drove through the hilly green countryside up to the mill where they were immediately unloaded, washed, cleansed of any remaining leaves, then crushed to a paste.

DSC02367

In less than an hour, a river of green oil began to gush out of a pipe, an amazing sight to see if you’ve only dealt with drizzles from a bottle. Even better was having the chance to taste this just-pressed olive over bread that had been grilled over the coals. This is an experience I hope everyone can experience. It has nothing to do with this business of being served a dish of olive oil with your bread in a restaurant. This is oil in its most pristine form, and from this point on, some say, it’s all down hill. But fortunately it’s a gentle slope. You have about a year to enjoy the oil, plus it’s packed in a can, which makes it safe to carry home.

pipe

This beautiful oil is produced, cooked with, eaten and sold at the resort. Its green and grassy flavors play perfectly with the vegetables that are also grown there. Add to the oil and produce the Greek varietal wines that are offered and I found I was eating in a way where the taste of terroir is absolutely vibrant.  I have many Greek cookbooks I cook from, access to homegrown Koronecki olive oil and excellent wines, but they all add up differently somehow. This is one reason why it’s so valuable to travel and eat food and drink wine Ray Ban outlet from its place. But even with travel that authentic experience can be hard to find. Cost is more a determinant than locale, just as it is here, and not everything is as indigenous as we’d like to think. But at Costa Navarino there is an unusual commitment to local foods and traditional ones as well, not only their olive oil, but also their vinegar, sea salt, amazing spoon sweets, olive oil biscuits and other exceptional foods. Where else can you go to a resort that presses then uses its own oil, I don’t know, but it certainly makes for a more delicious and interesting world that such an effort has been made at Costa Navarino.

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