Our Ancient Olive Trees
Lianolia, A Native of Corfu
International studies show that the olive variety is the essential factor determining the quality of the olive fruit and its oil. The Lianolia olive is native to Corfu and the Ionian Sea region. It is a demanding variety which, under the right conditions and care, produces an exceptional quality extra virgin olive oil unusually high in beneficial polyphenols.
The family groves are located near Agios Mathios village, on Mount Gamillios, between sea level and 130 meters. Three generations of Dafnis family members lovingly tend the aged Lianolia olive trees, none of which are under 100 years old. Many of the family trees have been flourishing for over 500 years on the fertile slopes leading down and into the sea. Each one of the 1500 olive trees is treated like a friend. The secret to the families healthy trees is maintaining a balance between the roots, trunk, leaves, and respecting the different needs of the younger and the older trees. Nature, the sun, wind and rain- take care of the rest.
There are estimated to be as many as 4 million olive trees on Corfu island, both wild and cultivated. Corfu olive trees are special. Many of them were planted hundreds of years ago and Corfu hosts some of the world’s oldest olive groves. During the 16th century, under the Venetian Occupation, the island produced olive oil for the Vatican. The olive trees were not destroyed in Greece’s wars and were allowed to grow very tall, 25 meters high, providing cool shade as well as olives and oil. Corfu’s ancient olive groves have inspired many artists. There is an olive museum at Kynopiastes, where visitors can see many interesting traditional exhibits of olive production.
Olive trees love the Mediterranean climate of mild winters and hot, dry summers. Corfu is Greece’s northernmost region for olive cultivation. Its considerably greater rainfall compared to the rest of Greece, provides the ideal micro-climate for the demanding Lianolia olive. The Lianolia olive variety, in particular, likes a high amount of ground and atmospheric moisture, to produce its rich foliage and finest quality olives.
One of the most important stages in olive oil production is the harvesting. Due to their age, the Dafins family olive trees are tall between 15-25 meters high and therefore out of reach of the pickers’ ladders, presenting a special challenge for harvesting. Many olive producer’s resort to beating the branches, which causes breakages, or even violently shaking the trunk in order to get at the high olives, thus affecting the quality of the next season’s produce.
Treating nature’s generosity with respect
The Dafnis family have developed their own method of hand-harvesting, using a rod which gently vibrates for not more than 15 seconds, and does not “shock” the tree or causes damage or small wounds to the branches. The olives fall into nets, which are slightly raised so that when they fall, they are not bruised from impact with the ground. The timing of the harvest is very important. Harvesting begins in early October, a few days before the unripe green olives begin to turn. Of course, olives do not all ripen on the same day. The family must be vigilant to gather the olives at exactly the right moment, usually within a 3-week window, and bring each batch to the family mill for pressing in under 8 hours. This careful harvesting method treats nature’s generosity with respect, producing a low yield per tree of exceptionally high-quality olives. Where other olive producers expect 350 kilos, we look for about 50 kilos per tree of perfect olives.