What is Early Harvest (Agoureleo) Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

What is Early Harvest (Agoureleo) Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Early harvest extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), is produced from olives that are harvested earlier in the growing season, typically when they are still green and not fully ripe. This timing of the harvest, usually in the early autumn, distinguishes it from other types of EVOO, where olives are harvested later in the season.

The term "Agoureleo" in Greek refers to "unripe" or "early harvest". It is indeed highly prized in Greek cuisine and is considered a premium olive oil due to its bold flavours and freshness. It is used in a variety of traditional Greek dishes, such as salads, grilled vegetables and seafood, drizzled over bread or feta cheese, to name a few.

Here are some reasons why early harvest EVOO is a favourite among olive oil enthusiasts:

  1. Bold and Robust Flavour: Early harvest EVOO is known for its robust and intense flavour profile. It often has pronounced fruity, grassy, and herbal notes. The olives harvested early in the season have a higher concentration of compounds responsible for these flavours.

  2. Peppery Finish: Early harvest EVOO can have a noticeable peppery finish, which is attributed to the presence of polyphenols and antioxidants. This peppery kick is a characteristic that many people appreciate.

  3. Freshness: Since the olives are harvested early in the season, early harvest EVOO is typically fresher and has a vibrant, greenish colour. This freshness contributes to the oil's vibrant flavour and aroma.

  4. Limited Availability: Early harvest EVOO is produced in limited quantities as the harvesting window is relatively short, limiting the availability of this type of oil. Moreover, there is limited quantity as pressing unripe olives yields less olive oil compared to fully ripened olives. 

  5. Health Benefits: Some studies suggest that early harvest EVOO may offer enhanced health benefits due to its higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols. Polyphenols are natural antioxidants found in olives, and their concentration tends to be higher in early harvest olives.

    My preferred way to enjoy our Early Harvest EVOO is to use it as a finishing oil. Some examples include: 

    • I have avocado toast for breakfast a few times a week, I enjoy how satiating and nourishing it is. I toast two slices of sourdough bread, slice a ripe avocado and sprinkle with sea salt flakes and a generous drizzle of early harvest EVOO. That's it! So simple and so delicious. 
    • I add it to my homemade tzatziki for extra richness and depth of flavour. It also adds a beautiful sheen and enhances the texture. 
    • I'll serve feta cheese with a generous drizzle of early harvest, topped with dried oregano. A classic Greek combination that makes for a fantastic side dish or appetiser. 
    • It's my number one choice when it comes to salad dressing. From simple green salads to more complex combinations with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and cheeses.
    • When I have guests over, my choice of appetiser is to assemble an antipasti board with a side of early harvest dipping oil or if I have more time I'll whip up a simple olive tapenade with early harvest EVOO.

    I don't tend to cook with early harvest EVOO as I find it's simply too precious to cook with. Instead I prefer to use it as a finishing oil, as mentioned above, and savour its unique characteristics. It's a way to highlight the oil's quality and elevate my dishes to a gourmet level.

    Not only is early harvest EVOO appreciated by food enthusiasts and olive oil connoisseurs, it is also revered for its health benefits and is often considered a nutritional powerhouse. Its high levels of anti-oxidants help to protect cells from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, a contributing factor to many diseases. 

    It's important to note that the health benefits of early harvest EVOO are best realised when it is consumed as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Choosing high-quality Early Harvest EVOO ensures that you reap the maximum nutritional advantages. 

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