Springtime carries its own promise of good eating. Soon asparagus will be popping out of Ohio soil, with strawberries not far behind. Wild Alaska salmon will be coming within weeks as backyard grills are getting fired up. In the meantime, we food lovers are fully engaged in another season of sorts: Novello. This Italian word simply means “new,” but to us signifies the first of the olive oil harvest. In the northern hemisphere, generally between November and January, olive trees are shaken and combed to give up their fruit. When the olives are pressed, the oil is at its peak in every sense, from health-giving properties such as polyphenols to more pronounced flavor. We begin to receive various oils in wintertime from our favorite producers, but the one we love most showed up a few weeks ago, our very own Vera Jane’s Novello.
Enjoy Vera Jane's Novello Extra-Virgin Olive Oil near or far!
NOVELLO—A TRUE INGREDIENT OF SPRING
At harvest, olives are pressed at the same time—most of the oil is then stored in large tanks topped with inert nitrogen to keep it in good condition, then bottled as needed throughout the year. So what makes our Novello unique from others? To start, it goes from pressing directly into bottles and is quickly sent to us. Consequently, it’s fresher and more vibrant. You can’t beat the resulting flavor with the healthy peppery kick at the back of your throat. I’ve been fortunate to taste hundreds of olive oils over the years, and the very first time I tried this one I knew it was special. We now think it’s one of the best ingredients of spring. But the origin behind this great olive oil actually starts with a wonderful family in the hills of Italy.
DISCOVERING AN ITALIAN TREASURE
Some twenty years ago, my parents, Norman and Terry, were traveling in Italy and met an enterprising young man in Tuscany named Alex Zanetti. Alex grew up in Tuscany eating dishes like pappardelle with ragù made by his mother Lily. As a native Toscana, she would liberally drizzle many of her dishes with the oil from hillside olive groves that surround the family’s estate, located a short walk from the charming, medieval walled town of Lucignano.
Over a long dinner al fresco on Lily’s porch with friends, my parents learned that Alex was considering bringing his family’s olive oil to America. They didn’t give it too much thought at the time, but left impressed with Alex and with a bottle of oil in hand, which they brought home to me. I took one taste and burst out, “Wow! That is some oil.” In fact, we thought so much of it that we made plans to import it pronto. We put my grandmother’s photo on it and named it after her, calling it Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil. And every year about this time, we are so proud to bring you our very special Novello version.
We love it so many ways: with crusty bread, on grilled salmon, in soups, on steamed veggies, over potatoes, in a vinaigrette, and over pasta to name a few. Even a small drizzle over top of vanilla gelato is a treat! The point is, it’s a condiment that you should enjoy liberally and often with all sorts of applications. So be sure to make it part of your family’s healthy eating this spring.