The Amazing Olive Tree

The Amazing Olive Tree

Sometimes I think there is nothng the ancient olive tree, its fruits, and oil cannot do. Researchers from the University of Jaén in Spain have identified a group of dormant bacteria in olive trees and soil that protect against environmental challenges. These bacteria, specifically Bacillus spp., have shown promise in combating the deadly plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa, responsible for the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome. Bacillus spp. can enter a state of rest, surviving extreme conditions, and could be used to develop a natural biopesticide against Xylella fastidiosa. The tiny micro organisms act akin to a secondary immune system for the trees and miraculously can be used to help other trees. These bacteria also demonstrate resistance to antibiotics and heavy metals, making them valuable for agricultural and environmental applications. This discovery opens possibilities for more sustainable agriculture and environmental detoxification.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Space

Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Space

Researchers have embarked on a fascinating investigation into the impact of space travel on extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Weight loss has been a persistent challenge faced by astronauts during their space exploration endeavors. One contributing factor to this issue is the unappetizing nature of the food provided, resulting in reduced consumption. However, a recent breakthrough study has shed light on the potential solution of incorporating EVOO into their diet, significantly enhancing the taste of the food and subsequently improving their eating habits. Although astronauts have previously utilized EVOO, this rigorous study marks the first comprehensive analysis of its feasibility in space. Remarkably, three samples were recently dispatched to space, and upon the return of one sample, it was observed that its structure remained largely unchanged. This exciting development suggests that the application of EVOO holds tremendous promise in bolstering the astronauts’ diet. It begs the question: is there anything it cannot accomplish?

The Ancient Olive Trees of Italy

The Ancient Olive Trees of Italy

It’s no wonder that Gianni (miller and owner of Apollo Olive Oil) has an inherent appreciation for olive trees and their produce – oil of course, as well as dried and cured olives.  His family roots are in Tuscany, which is second only to Puglia in Italian olive production.  The difference is mainly that olive groves in Puglia were first planted by the Romans, and ‘only’ reached Tuscany in the 15th and 16th centuries. According to some estimates the Puglia region has 50 – 60 million ancient olive trees scattered throughout the region that were originally planted by the Romans before the common era. Some think these groves represent “the oldest extant arboreal agrarian landscape in the world.” It is no wonder that creating some of the world’s highest quality olive oil comes so naturally to Gianni. Here is a link to a wonderful short article with a beautiful video honoring these trees.

Not All Oils Are Created Equal

The problem of adulterated oils extends beyond olive oil. UC Davis recently completed a study that found 82% of commercially sold avocado oil was adulterated, mislabeled, or poor quality. Every oil sampled had at least some adulteration. The researchers were stunned at the high number of poor quality oils being sold as avocado oil. Three oils were almost 100% soybean oil. One of the reasons for those poor results is that no official standards or regulations exist for avocado oil. That’s why we are grateful to have the California Olive Oil Council certify our Apollo oils, and why it is important when purchasing olive oil, to look for the COOC seal.

The producers of real avocado oil have the same problem as producers of real extra virgin olive oil – It isn’t possible to compete with large companies that can manipulate their oils. The problem is larger in the US where quality, origin, and being true to label is not valued as much as it is in Europe. The producers of real avocado oil are now working to establish international standards like those that exist for extra virgin olive oil that insure consumers actually receive what is on the label.

Funny Honey

It turns out that olive oil is not the only product where large producers import inferior products then add it to the real thing to cut costs. In honey’s case they are cutting the real thing with high fructose corn syrup and other additives while still calling the product pure honey. Many states, including California, have passed laws making it possible to bring civil cases against those who are engaging in this practice. Their hope is this will induce the Federal government to institute similar protections for the consumer nationwide. Profit is an important motivation for business, however, when it comes to food producers, profit needs to be realized through providing health, safety, and honesty to our customers.

Read more about funny honey.

The High Cost of Cheap Food

The Surprise Journey Of Learning About Our Food Supply

The recent outbreak of salmonella poisoning causing 500 million eggs to be recalled have people wondering about our food supply. There are two excellent resources that reveal the truth about why these outbreaks occur. They are the movie, Food Inc., and the book, Animal Factory. These two resources document the harmful affect of modern practices in two key areas, cost and safety. While many are vaguely aware of the dangers of factory farming few know the real details that cause nationwide problems.


Most people know the corn industry in the US is subsidized but don’t know what that means. The subsidies actually allow the industry to sell corn for less than the price of production and still make a profit. Because corn is used in one form or another in almost all fast foods, processed foods, and feed for animals it allows those industries to go to market at a greatly reduced price. Also the large factory farms receive the lion’s share of subsidies because the subsidies are based on production and not need. This creates the illusion that locally grown organic produce from small farms is expensive, where as the truth is that in the latter case the price is based on having to cover actual costs not subsidized costs.


Factory farms require very large capital investments to buy the machinery to process large quantities of animals in a small space. This requires animals to live in their own filth. This not only encourages the outbreak of disease and it also encourages the disease to spread very quickly because the animals are packed so closely together. To lessen this tendency factory farms feed the animals massive amounts of antibiotics. This in turn creates resistant strains of bacteria that enter into the general population. In contrast, small farms cannot afford the initial capital investment to allow this kind of farming. It is actually less expensive for the small farmer to use grass fed free range farming techniques thus eliminating all the causes of disease the large factory farms are subject to. The end product is more expensive but again it is because real costs must be covered not subsidized costs.

Small is Beautiful

In 1910 English philosopher, G.K. Chesterton, coined the phrase ‘small is beautiful.’ A popular phrase in the 1960’s was ‘the solution to pollution is dilution.’ We recognize that over concentration is harmful in many aspects of life. In industry it leads to monopolies. We are all told to diversify our portfolio to protect our savings. The list goes on and on but we aren’t told to diversify our food supply. Why don’t the same principles apply? Diversity is practically synonymous with health. A collection of small farms has diversity built into its DNA. It may be more expensive but it is because we are paying for healthier, tastier food and healthier farm land that will be here for generations. Educating ourselves about our food supply might just save our lives.

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Smithsonian Folkways

Quite by accident the other night I caught a show on the Smithsonian channel about Folkways founder Moses Asch. This is the fascinating story of a man who made it his life mission to record all the non-commercial sounds of our world from 1948 to the year of his death in 1986. Over this period of time he made 2,200 albums. That is over one every week. The content includes the folk music of Africa, the Near East, the Far East,  Appalachia , Cajun Louisiana, Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, bird songs, animal sounds, junkyard sounds, children songs and much more. He is responsible for the first surviving recordings of Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, and many others thus allowing the rest of the world to hear unusual artists that would have been lost forever. He also produced the historic and legendary Anthology of American Folk Music edited by Harry Smith. His son has recently put together 26 one hour segments, called Sounds to Grow On, highlighting the vast collection that can be heard for free at the Folkways Smithsonian site. During his 38 year span at Folkways Moses Asch never allowed any of his recordings to go out of print. When the Smithsonian took over the collection the main agreement was that no title can ever go out of print. The Smithsonian continues to add eclectic recordings to the collection to this day. I take my hat off to such a wonderful non-commercial effort enriching us all. Oddly, one of the best selling recordings in the collection is an album of frog sounds with scholarly commentary. Enjoy!