We met with Marianna Kolokotroni, founder of Oliveology. Oliveology is a beautiful shop in the Borough market full of delicious Greek products. From their fabulous selection of food, we buy the organic Kalamata olives with herbs and oranges, the really tasty grape molasses (natural sirop for the granola) as well as their barley rusks - all from surplus!
We asked a few questions to Marianna to learn more artisan Greek food!
Marianna and her lovely team, Borough Market
Marianna started Oliveology seven years ago. She left Greece, studied in the UK and decided to settle down in London but one thing was missing for Marianna in the food scene...authentic Greek produce! Proud of Geek cuisine to create healthy meals with natural ingredients full of flavours, the idea of having an artisan Greek shop in London was born...
She then decided to visit farms in Greece and select the best organic olives and olive oil. She looked at the process of production, the quality and the flavours of the products. Marianna became the first seller of Greek foods with a stall in Borough Market. Over time, she expanded her product line and was able to move into her permanent store at the Borough market last year. The team also operates from their warehouse at Spa Terminus.
Let's learn a little bit more about the produce...
Green or black olives?
Although there are over 800 types of olive trees, they all give green olives! They will then gradually ripen to purple-black.
What makes olives good?
1. Selection process
The olives are hand picked from the trees and then subjected to a stringent selection process to remove the damaged ones. The producers will go through the harvest once, twice and even three times!
2. Curing process
Olives taste very bitter if eaten straight from the tree. Rather, they are naturally cured in fresh water, a process which needs dedicated and constant observation for 6 to 9 months. Water is changed very often.
The olives are not pasteurised. The pasteurisation process would destroy all the nutrients the farmers strive to preserve in the olive due to high temperature.
The olives are then marinated in vinegar and herbs.
The olives are then kept for a year before being sold as their flavours would otherwise be too strong.
The difference with processed olives?
Did you know that the most common and quickest way to cure olives is to dunk them in caustic soda or “lye”? The caustic soda is so strong that the glucosides (bitterness of the olives) vanish overnight. Then the olives are soaked in brine in order to get rid of the caustic soda (Carolyn Lyons, 2007). Caustic soda won’t appear in the list of ingredients. Look for “ferrous gluconate” or E579 on jars and tins in supermarkets.
It is much faster to turn green olives black by washing them in oxygenated water. Unfortunately, when they come out of the water into the air, they revert to green unless ferrous gluconate (an iron and glucose mix – E579) is added to fix the colour (Carolyn Lyons, 2007). In addition, tinned olives have to be sterilised at 135° for 25 minutes. Not so flavourful and natural...
What about olive oil?
Marianna selects a Greek olive oil, produced in a family holding at the foot of the Taygetus Mountains, grown organically and hand harvested according to traditions used through countless generations!
1. The collection & selection process
The olives are directly collected from the trees from October to December when the olives are still young and green. They are harder to collect and smaller than the mature black olives so the farmers need larger quantity to make one litre of olive oil. The next step is cleaning the olives and removing the stems, leaves, twigs, and other debris left with the olives.
2. The press
The olives are cold extracted at exceptionally low temperatures within a few hours after being picked.
The olives are directly taken to the press to avoid any fermentation. They will be mixed very gently (malaxing process) to take out olive oil. The soft pressure of the stones that rotate very slowly creates a paste of crushed olives.
3. The sedimentation process
The oil is left to decant in containers for 3 to 4 months (until March/April) to be filtered naturally and is subsequently bottled.
Three to four months prior to bottling the oil is still opaque (veiled) and continues to deposit sediment in the bottle, creating a brown layer at the bottom which in no way affects the quality of the oil. This oil is referred to as “cold pressed”.
Any health benefit in olives?
Olives have high levels of monounsaturated fats (more info about natural fat here) and are a good source of protein, vitamin E, antioxidants and polyphenols and an excellent provider of oleic acid and oleuropein. The laters have powerful antioxidant activity and gives extra virgin olive oil and olives their bitter, pungent taste. Antioxidants can help reduce and neutralise the free radicals in our bodies caused by harmful exposure to carcinogens in everyday life. These have been shown to have beneficial effects from healing sunburn to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of coronary disease. Source: http://oliveology.co.uk
Organic vs non organic products
"I don't believe in chemicals, they hurt your body - I believe in organic and wild products."
Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Nobody knows about the long-term cumulative effects of pesticides in the body. On the other side, organic farming promotes ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity by restricting the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
However, many small farms are excluded from the organic sector because certification costs are too high and the administrative burden is too onerous.
For Marianna, it is important to find the right balance between organic and natural when selecting products from small producers. She mentioned for instance honey. Organic honey comes from cultivated plantation while wild honey is directly picked up from the mountains where there are mineral and vitamins. The honey is absolutely natural and full of flavours but is not certified...
Any others products at the shop?
Marianna also sources organic vinegar, artisan honey, raisins—which have PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status and grow only in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece—and pistachios, grown and freshly roasted in small batches among many other delicious products.
Marianna is running the first Greek cooking workshop at the Borough market on the 18th of May - don't miss it! More information here.
Borough market: boroughmarket.org.uk