Special Sections

health matters 122119

Issue link: https://www.ifoldsflip.com/i/1197159

Contents of this Issue


Page 0 of 3

photography by Kevin Painchaud Advertising Supplement n e w y e a r n e w y o u M A T T E R S A locAl olive oil journey with wild PoPPies t hinking about ways to be healthier, now that a New Year is approaching? Olive oil is an ingredient that many people use, although some mistakenly fear it because—like all oils and fats—it's high in calories. Let's discover some of its benefits, and learn more about a local duo that, although fairly new to olive oil producing, already have many fans. The pair I'm referring to? Sisters-in-law Jamie de Sieyes and Kim Null, who formed the business Wild Poppies in 2018 (the company's roots date back much longer; more on that later). Jamie and Kim, members of the California Olive Oil Council, attended the 2018 COOC conference. Dr. Mary Flynn, Associate Professor of Medicine (Clinical) at Brown University, was a speaker who extolled many of the oil's benefits. "Mary's big message is that 'Food is Medicine,' and olive oil has incredibly special properties," says Jamie. At the conference, Dr. Flynn spoke about extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) being the only food known to provide these benefits all at once: lower blood pressure, increase HDL (good cholesterol), lower LDL (bad cholesterol), decrease inflammation, and decrease blood glucose/ insulin. Also, olive oil with a high polyphenol count has more benefits. Jamie and Kim check these levels in Wild Poppies olive oil, and do all of their chemistry testing through Baker Labs in Paso Robles. Also at Dr. Flynn's conference talk, it was mentioned EVOO is the only food that increases HDL, and that EVOO also contains squalene, a skin cancer preventative. "You can get all these benefits with only two tablespoons of olive oil in your diet per day!" Jamie enthusiastically shares. In her opinion, it's best to add EVOO to already-cooked food. If you do cook the oil, however, the benefits are still there—even if, for example, you roast it with other ingredients at 400 degrees for a couple hours. "Some people think that if you cook it, the benefits go away, but you'd have to REALLY cook it for a long time—like over five hours— to 'kill it' (it's a live food)," she explains. Wild Poppies strives to give consumers the best oil possible, with benefits including wonderful taste and the health aspects mentioned above. Jamie and Kim's goal as olive oil producers is to create premium olive oil. "We take great care of our olive orchard and olive oil—in harvest, milling, transport, storage, and bottling, says Jamie. "The ultimate goal is to have EVOO with amazing flavors. From hand harvesting our olives so they don't bruise, to milling our olives the same day as harvest to maintain freshness, to storing our oils only in stainless steel fustis for flavor preservation: every step of the way, we utilize best industry practices." (Author's note: fusti is the Italian word for container, and usually refers to stainless steel containers used for olive oil, wine or milk). "This delicate care also results in very shelf- stable oils, which retain their high phenol counts longer. Phenols in olive oil are lost to air/heat/light/ oxygen, so it's important to know your olive oil producer is careful at every stage of the oil's lifespan." Good producers, she says, know how to keep oxidation and fermentation away from olives and oil at every stage. "Both our mentor Chris Banthien (an olive farmer, grower and producer) and our miller Greg Traynor (of 43 Ranch) have taught us the very best practices. Even our two-year-old oil still tastes amazing and would likely lab test with extra virgin numbers." They take great pride that each tin of Wild Poppies EVOO is filled by them, not at a factory, and topped with argon to remove air/oxygen from the headspace so "every tin will be as fresh as possible when you open it at home." Speaking of freshness, Jamie noted this was discussed in an interesting way by Nicholas Coleman in an August 2019 New York Times article by Julia Moskin, The World of Olive Oil is Murky: Here's Help for the Home Cook, "Olive oil belongs in the produce section, not on a shelf," said Coleman, a trained olive oil taster and the former olive oil specialist for Eataly USA. Coleman described it as closer to a raw juice than a cooking oil, as most cooking oils are pressed from seeds and nuts, not fruit. The article also suggests consuming olive oil within a couple years of bottling. Wild Poppies finished this season's fresh olive oil bottling in early December. They started their harvest in late November, and that's when I had the chance to chat with Jamie. I attended on the very first day of harvest, so Kim was very busy getting the crew started. This year was their second harvest (the first was in late fall 2018). Before we get to this, let's discuss the history of this local, women-owned and women-run company. Its roots go back to the mid-1990s, when Chris Banthien traveled to Italy. She brought 100 13-inch olive saplings back from Pescia, and planted the orchard next to her Aptos home in 1997. There are now 2,000 trees in her orchard, and the Wild Poppies gals began leasing the orchard in 2018. "Chris is still a big part of our operation, even if it's just for laughter in the barn while bottling. She has become a dear friend, and very patient with the thousands of questions we've asked her," says Jamie. This is Jamie and Kim's first "full on farming venture," as the pair calls it. Their families live close to each other in Aptos. The two women married brothers, Nick and Evan, who own the business "de Sieyes Brothers, LLC" which restores distressed agricultural properties in Santa Cruz County and the Pajaro Valley. Jamie, married to Evan, used to be in advertising, focused on sustainability, the process of greening companies, etc. She left that world to have children (two girls, three-year-old Jessie and five-year-old Anna), and eventually felt like she wanted to start something new in Santa Cruz. She has always been involved in agriculture, for example growing some of her own food, but never owned a business. Kim, married to Nick, is almost done with her transition to farming full time. For now, she is still a practicing marine scientist, with a lab at Moss Landing Marine Labs, but will be leaving that position in the future. She is also going to launch a CSA in 2020. She and Nick have a three-year old son, Henri, and a six- year-old daughter, Izzy. Kim gets very excited when discussing the process of harvesting olives and turning them into oil. "What's really cool about it is it happens in a day! We've been in kind of a holding pattern and then all of a sudden we make the call that the olives are ripe. You want a mix of ripeness, so we'll have everything from green olives to changing or blushing olives, all the way to purple olives. Some of them even turn black. So we're looking for the whole spectrum, and when we start to see this, it means we'll be able to get that full range of bitterness and pungency and fruitiness that you're looking for in good olive oil. And so we'll start harvesting." The harvest ranges from two to three weeks, depending on weather and olive ripening. To start, they lay down huge 100-foot nets with a crew of 14, and use six battery-powered rakes. Six reach up and extend rakes into the olive trees, and the olives pop off into the nets. The rest of the crew hand-harvests the olives, and they shake all the nets together and put olives into bins that hold 40 pounds at a time. "The kids mostly climb trees at this age, but are learning to help with 'quality control' by picking the bad olives out of the harvest bins. Every day we have a couple hundred of these bins, and we put them all into a macro-bin, which holds about a half-ton or 1,000 pounds, and Kim and I drive them to the San Ardo mill that same day and crush them. So literally it goes from olives into olive oil in about eight hours." Greg Traynor, who runs the mill, was trained in Italy. Jamie and Kim wait at the mill and sample the oil when it's done. "It's so satisfying to taste the oil at the end of the day." Many family members, including ones that live out of state, get involved during harvest time. Jamie's sister comes down from Montara to help, and her parents fly out from Florida to help with the kids, and on some days her mother—Jojo Ostrov—also assists with hand harvesting. "It's truly a family affair since Kim and I are putting in 5 a.m. to midnight days. We're grateful to have supportive families so we can operate the harvest with our full attention." Evan and Nick help with 'heavy lifting' as Jamie calls it—like cleaning the 2,000-liter stainless steel fusti, or operating the vintage forklift. Jamie's daughter Anna comes to farmers markets with her, and helps other kids learn to taste Wild Poppies oils. "All of our kids love the spiciest oils best! One of my favorite times is when we drive to school; we pass the orchard every day, and the kids say, 'Hi Mommy's olives' as we drive by." Olio Nuovo (this means 'new oil') is now available, as the newest tins of Wild Poppies oil arrived at the Saturday Aptos farmers market (at Cabrillo College) in late November. "This is as fresh as it gets," says Jamie. "New oil means it's the most intense, unfiltered, emerald green (color is from the chlorophyll of the olive trees' leaves). It's an oil and experience you don't get any other time of year. The first month after harvest is when the boldest flavors and colors are there," she adds. Wild Poppies will be at the Aptos market with their 2019 oil and the 2018 Tuscan Blend every week until Dec. 28. Then, they will be on vacation for a few weeks and return around late January. Speaking of the farmers market, there are now two-liter fustis at the markets available for their customers. This is part of Wild Poppies' zero waste program, which they started in early November. Customers can become members for $60 (includes price of fusti), and then for $110 each time, they can refill it with whichever variety they like. You can also purchase Wild Poppies oil at their web site, and at Companion Bakeshop and all of New Leaf Community Markets' Santa Cruz County locations. Companion's Aptos location also serves the oil on their avocado toast. Jamie and Kim look forward to the future, as they see where their journeys as olive oil producers will take them. One major piece of news: they are going to be an olive oil supplier for David Kinch's upcoming Aptos restaurant, Mentone. "We're so excited about the partnership, and providing oil for an amazing chef and seeing his food creations with it," says Jamie. Matt Bowden, currently Executive Sous Chef at Kinch's Los Gatos restaurant Manresa before transitioning to Executive Chef at Mentone, recently visited the orchard with Mentone manager Chris Sullivan. Bowden and Sullivan chose Wild Poppies' Taggiasca olive oil variety for the restaurant; I had the opportunity to taste it at a Mentone preview popup last month and it was divine. "What's so cool is, it's actually the varietal that's grown in the region that Mentone is named after," adds Jamie. Jamie and Kim's absolute favorite recipe featuring olive oil is from the Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten). It's for tomato crostini with whipped feta (note: it calls for 2/3 cup of "good olive oil"). "We made it 10 times over the summer for all kinds of events and it was the number one crowd pleaser," says Jamie. "But we do lots of avocado toast for the kids at home, topped generously with our olive oil." Another recipe they love is champagne vinaigrette, and they are graciously sharing this one with Sentinel readers. It comes from Malcolm de Sieyes, who not only is head chef/founder of Napa-based Silverado Cooking School, but is also Evan's cousin. "It's a simple recipe, but it shines on salads," says Jamie. For more information, visit wildpoppiesoliveoil.com by Tara Fatemi Walker Recipe Chef Malcolm's Champagne Vinaigrette, Silverado Cooking School, Napa, CA Ingredients: 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar 1 tsp. Dijon mustard 1 small shallot, finely diced 1 clove garlic, smashed 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper 3/4 cup good olive oil (Wild Poppies recommends using their Tuscan Blend, available at New Leaf ) Instructions: Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a jar, close lid and shake vigorously. Let stand for 10 minutes. Slowly add most of the olive oil. Then, vigorously shake until the dressing is combined. If too acidic, add more olive oil. Keep in refrigerator for up to a week. Kim Null and Jamie de Sieyes, co-owners of Wild Poppies Jojo Ostrov

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Special Sections - health matters 122119