Patti Bess is a local food writer in Nevada County….she will also be teaching several classes at In the Kitchen in January and February…..check out her essay on California Olive Oil!
There’s gold in those hills! Well, not the kind the 49ers were looking for, but valuable none the less. To food aficionados and health-conscious Americans, extra virgin olive oil is better than gold. It’s food for the gods. Olives actually only grow on about 5 percent of the world’s land. Lucky for us, the elevation, rocky soils and hot, dry summers of the Sierra foothills are perfect for growing them.
Orchards of olive trees in the foothills are expanding faster than computer chips in the Silicon Valley. Michael and Monica Keller of Calolea Olive Oil are just two of the industrious folks who are prospecting this new Gold Rush in the foothills. Their company name, Calolea, came from “Cal” for California and “olea,” which is Latin for olive. On a crisp December afternoon in the Kellers’ orchard, the silver leaves of the olive trees shimmered in the afternoon sunlight for as far as I could see.
Michael Keller pressed his first oil while living on a small family plot in Sonoma County. It was love at first taste! His new passion became a career sooner than he imagined. In 1999, he and Monica began looking for a place to settle down and purchased 10 acres in the little town of Loma Rica, just over the Nevada County border in Yuba County. Most of their new property was covered in ancient olive trees that hadn’t been tended since the 1960s. Armed with a mower and pruning shears, the Kellers cleared the brush and blackberries and brought the trees back to life. That first year they produced just 80 gallons of oil, but their timing was right as Californians were hungry for quality oil, and the company snowballed. To full article….