Shopping for olive oil the other day, I was struck by just how cheap it had become. A 500ml bottle of Waitrose 100% extra virgin Spanish olive oil £3.49; The Co-ops 500ml Filippo Berio £2, and then by coincidence Squidbeak was delivered of a bloody great 5 litre bottle of Mother’s Garden olive oil. Yes, there are some perks in this job. Then another coincidence, Thursday’s Guardian, G2 devoted a page to ‘the great olive oil scandal’.
John Henley reported on a new book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller an American living in Italy who has investigated adulteration and illegality in the olive oil industry.
It turns out that olive oil is so expensive and time consuming to produce and so easy to doctor, that the olive oil industry, especially in Italy, has been carrying out widespread abuse on an international scale. Amongst other corrupt practices, passing off hazelnut oil from Turkey and Argentina as Italian extra virgin.
Henley also reported on two Spanish businessmen jailed for two years for selling ‘hundreds of thousands of litres of supposedly extra virgin olive oil that was in fact a mixture of 70-80% sunflower oil and 20-30% olive”
We’re not suggesting my cheapo supermarket bottles have been in any way adulterated, though the Guardian reports that some less than authentic oil is bound to have ended up in British supermarkets, but I was keen to see how the taste compared to the pricey £9.95 bottle from Mother’s Garden.
As we were sent it free and gratis, you’ll understand if we tell you it’s totally fabulous. (But do also read our review on the free sample of chilli Wensleydale cheese we were sent).
Fresh, fruity and somehow well.. lively. Honestly it was really very good especially when sampled beside the cheap stuff which tasted of well nothing much at all; dull, flat and faintly industrial.
I’ve been dousing everything with the good stuff. A glug on a bowl of minestrone, a drizzle on top of homemade pizza, I dressed a rocket salad and used it to marinate some squid. We’ve got through a third of a bottle in a couple of days so I reckon it’s time to ease up.
Mother’s Garden is in the Priorat region of Catalonia in north east Spain. You may have read about the family in the Yorkshire Post. How they moved to a farm in Spain for a taste of the good life. They were subsequently filmed for the Channel 4 series No Going Back.
Tina and Neal Boden of Priorat Provenance based in Scarborough, distribute Mother’s Garden olive oil in Yorkshire. The Guardian’s tip for locating the best olive oil is to look for a date label. This one has it all. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil with the picking, pressing and bottling date, the olive variety: 100% Arbequina and even the mill it was pressed in. Don’t take our word for it, in 2011 Mother’s Garden olive oil won gold at the Great Taste Awards.