Nature's Gold is a well-established wholefood store in Greystones Co Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland about 20km south of Dublin. Almost uniquely among Irish food retailers, we own a small olive farm and produce our own extra virgin olive oil. This is not just some olive oil we found somewhere and slapped our label on it – we actually own and administer the farm and harvest the olives ourselves.
The farm itself is situated in Tarragona province of north-east Spain on the Mediterranean coast overlooking the Ebro delta. This part of the coast is strikingly beautiful and still unspoilt as there are no high-rise hotels or apartment blocks in the area. The farm is located in the foothills of a craggy mountain range that form the backdrop of this narrow coastal strip and there are stunning mountain and sea views from the farm. There is a lovely feeling of peace and tranquillity and at most times during the day all you can hear is the wind in the trees, birds singing and the odd dog barking in the distance.
We have owned the farm for about 8 years now and have never used any chemical sprays or pesticides. We have even managed to stop the airborne spraying that they carry out all over the area at certain times of the year. It is now registered as being "in conversion" to organic – a process that takes about three years.
The olives are harvested by members of Nature's Gold staff and a few friends. The harvesting time for olives in this part of the world is any time between mid-October to mid-December depending on when the olives are ripe. Olives on different trees will ripen at different times, so that's why the harvest is somewhat drawn out. The may well be a further harvest in January. We harvest the olives according to an age-old traditional process which has been carried out in Mediterranean countries for centuries. Nets are laid on the ground around the tree and the olives are gathered, mostly by hand, into the nets. They are then gathered into sacks and brought down to the local olive mill.
Producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil
There the oil is produced purely by mechanical means and no heat is applied at any stage during production (known as "Cold Pressing"). Only the first pressing is used to make Nature's Gold Olive Oil, hence the oil can be referred to as from the "First Cold Pressing".
The acidity of the oil is the main determining factor as to whether the oil can be considered as "Extra Virgin". An acidity level of 0.8% or under is considered "Extra Virgin" and between 0.8% and 2% it is known as "Virgin". Above 2& the oil is known simply as "Olive Oil" or "Pure Olive Oil" and mainly used in food production. The acidity of our oil varies from batch to batch and ranges from 0.2% to 0.8%. Acidity levels of the batches are determined by chemical analysis carried out by the Catalan Department of Agriculture just after the oil is produced.
Our oil is produced from two varieties of olives: Sevillenca and Morrut. Both varieties are typical of the Baix Ebre region of Tarragona and both are renowned for producing very fine quality olive oil.