Antioxidant rich olive oil from our landscaping shade trees! What started as a practical and drought tolerant choice for a landscaping project has turned into a great source of extra virgin olive oil for my family. Since initially writing this post in 2009, even more good news about olive oil comes from a study demonstrating that,
Little did I know when I planted these trees that the fruits of that labor would be part of my anti-aging skin care program!! As a dermatologist who produces olive oil, I love that eating olive oil reduces wrinkles. Could the serendipity be more wonderful!! Oh, and that's my wonderful husband in that olive tree back in 2009!! He looks much the same today - could it be the olive oil??
On the Saturday in December of 2009 we harvested 280 lbs. of olives from these lovely 10-year-old trees and took the olives to our local community olive press. Our olives are pressed with olives from other small growers in Sonoma County and we get delicious, antioxidant rich high-quality extra virgin olive oil in 2 weeks.
Dermatologist's Antioxidant-Rich Olive Oil Production
The climate here in Coastal Northern California is similar to Province in France and Tuscany in Italy. Olives do well here. I choose olive trees because they’re attractive, drought-tolerant and the right size and shape for shading the outdoor dining table in my herb garden. The added bonus is the olives. Our trees produce large meaty olives that make wonderful oil and cured olives.
To harvest olives for oil you have to wait until 80% have turned from green to black. This happens in our garden between Thanksgiving and mid-December. One year, we harvested the day after Thanksgiving with a house full of my daughter’s college friends who had joined us for Thanksgiving. It was a sight to see, all these lovely young adults brimming with youthful vitality up in the trees and on ladders picking olive.
In 2009 the harvest was up to my husband and I. You have to get the olives to the press within 24 hours of harvest so it's a lot of work to harvest everything in one day. That said, it’s a joy to rake the fruit off the branches, hearing it fall on the tarps like rain on a roof. The fruit is always absolutely beautiful; glossy plump olives ranging in color from olive green to black. I love to see bins full of our olives going up the conveyor belt to the press. In 2 weeks, we return to the press and pick up our oil. In 2009 we had over 8 gallons!For years we have taken our olives to a local olive press on a 'community press' day. It's fun! We then let our new oil mature for several months before we use it. This allows the flavors to mellow. ‘Green’ olive oil is really peppery so we let it age. When ready to use, the flavor of our oil is extraordinary!
The concept of ‘terroir’ applies to olive oil too.
Terroir is the idea that the flavors of a food (or wine) reflect the soil and growing conditions specific to where the food originated. Pairing foods grown in similar locations creates harmonious flavors. I think my olive oil pairs well with the produce form my vegetable garden and I love using them together.
We use almost no butter in my kitchen because of this bounty of olive oil.
I drizzle it on most salads, mix it with roasted bell peppers to top crostini, drizzle more on goat cheese as an appetizer, then drizzle more on soup to add an Italian flavor etc. etc…. As of the update of this post in 2020 I can say that we now use absolutely no butter in my kitchen. None! We use olive oil for almost everything.
That includes my popular 'rocket science' salad dressing made from olive oil, fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice and salt. Every time I serve it to someone new, they love it and ask me how I made it, expecting some complicated recipe. Nope, it's ridiculously simple. I may add to the oil/lemon mixture minced onions and/or herbs, avocado or goat cheese to make it creamy but that's it. It's so simple and so wonderful that I call it 'rocket science'. Trust me, it's a hit!
Extra virgin olive oil is a rich source of polyphenol antioxidants.
The authors of the 2012 olive oil and wrinkle prevention study I mentioned above hypothesize that olive oil may be uniquely beneficial to skin because it is rich in polyphenol antioxidants and squalane. We in dermatology know that antioxidants and squalane are good for skin. My lovely garden with its dappled shade has turned out to be a natural dietary super-food source that's great for my skin too. And, it just keeps getting better. As of 2020 I can tell you that we harvest well over 600 lbs. of olives this season and produced over 10 gallons of oil. We have so many olives that we now get our own press and all of the oil comes exclusively from our olives. Yes, we give it as gifts!! Our oil is delicious, we use it liberally in our kitchen and we love the entire circle of garden to food to health.
If you liked this blog post, you may also want to read some of my other Diet and Natural Health Posts. I share recipes, research on diet and healthy skin and ideas for boosting vitality and skin health through our healthy lifestyle choices.
Latreille J, Kesse-Guyot E, Malvy D, Andreeva V, Galan P, et al. (2012) Dietary Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Intake and Risk of Skin Photoaging. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44490. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044490