Agourelaio is a very special and much prized type of olive oil, and this year we are harvesting our very first agourelaio for sale!
"Agourelaio" literally means 'unripe oil' in Greek, and describes the very earliest harvest olive oil made from the pressing of plump green olives picked whilst they are still green. Generally, early harvest olives yield smaller quantities of olive oil than more ripe olives, and many farmers keep this delicious olive oil for themselves.
When Agourelaio is available on the market, it is usually in limited quantities and the price is often higher. But it is worth every penny, if you are interested in both the best organoleptic properties (taste, aroma, texture) and the health value of olive oil.
So what are the key differences between EVOO made from early harvest green olives, and olive oil made from ripe, black, 'late harvest' olives?
Both types of olives can produce excellent quality olive oils - but they are very different in character. Olives reach their full size in Autumn, when they are still green, and begin to ripen from November through to February gradually turning through shades of red and purple to a deep black - such as those shown in the two images below.
Very early harvest olives are picked in the second half of October, when they are mostly still green. The resulting oil is a very bright green colour (almost fluorescent) and very aromatic; it is more bitter and peppery than a late harvest oil, with strong notes of grass and green leaves. It is extremely healthy and is higher in polyphenols, phytochemicals with antioxidant properties than later harvest oils.
In contrast, late harvest produced mostly from black 'winter' olives (see image below) will produce an oil with less distinctive varietal character, milder 'mellow' taste, with little bitterness and more floral flavours.
Early harvest oils usually have a longer shelf life and are often blended with late harvest oils to improve the shelf life of the latter. Due to their different taste properties, the two styles of oil are used in different ways in the kitchen.
Early harvest has other benefits for the trees and for the olives themselves: the trees recover better and can gather their strength for the following year, and with time, olive trees can change from being diennial fruit producers to annual prcers. It also reduces the chances of damaging the olives due to cold weather.
This year we are producing our very first Agourelaio, and our harvest starts tomorrow!