Peruvian olive experts Jose “Pepe” Vico and his wife Margit used innovative permaculture techniques to turn a 48 acre stretch of salted desert soil into a sustainable oasis of biodiversity — the first organic olive farm in Peru.
"Chacra Blanca," their name for this beautiful stretch of Peruvian coastal desert, has never been exposed to chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Instead, the Vicos use sustainable agriculture practices to keep the soil rich and to make their olive products simply delicious. Not only is it organic, the farm is EurepGAP Certified for "Good Agricultural Practices," and all its olive products are certified kosher.
The entire farm is a sustainable circle of interdependence, filled with the fragrant scents of citrus, eucalyptus and fig trees that are planted along with the olive trees, creating a biodiversity that is ideal for protecting the olives and enhancing their flavor. Vico pioneered a unique compost made from pruning of the olive trees, along with rich manure from the farm's goats, sheep, and horses (who are only given organic feed). It takes a year for this compost to “cook,” but it provides the perfect nutrients for the soil without damaging the environment. For insect prevention, Vico uses a special spray made from an extract of olive leaves that he created himself. These pioneering organic methods also increased the yields with four to seven year old trees producing as much as a typical twelve year old tree.
Heirloom Botija Olives
The Vicos have cultivated a rare strain of olive tree. These "Botija" trees are the hardiest we’ve ever seen, and they produce large, plum-like olives with a robust flavor and meaty texture. Careful handling and processing ensures excellent flavor and incredible health benefits. Every olive is manually harvested and meticulously hand-pitted, then prepared with traditional "lacto-fermentation," using only sea salt and local spring water (instead of the fast, cheap & toxic chemical methods used in the modern olive industry). Herbed and spiced varieties are made with the farm's own organic spices. The final product is bagged or jarred in air and light-resistant containers, and shipped to our air-conditioned facility in Southern California.
Our Botija olives come in two varieties: black and green. Green olives are picked earlier in the season, before fully ripening, to ensure a crisp texture. Black olives are picked later in the season, after tree-ripening in the sun. This ripening process makes the olives softer and changes their flavor characteristics.
Olives are naturally bitter and spicy because of their high antioxidant content, so they must be "cured" before consumption. For thousands of years, traditional olive growers have cured their olives using various methods, including fermentation or saltwater immersion. The predominant technique used in the modern olive industry involves immersing the olives in successive baths of caustic lye, a highly toxic chemical (with questionable environmental and health effects). Lye curing, although faster and cheaper, also strips olives of their richer, subtler range of flavors.
Our olives are traditionally lacto-fermented, using only sea salt and local spring water. After hand-harvesting, the olives are washed and graded, then placed into large food-grade tanks with pure local spring water and sea salt. Over time, the salt water pulls bitter elements out of the olive flesh while naturally present probiotics digest some of the sugars and fibers in the olives. This time-honored technique produces a superior olive, both in terms of environmental impact and flavor characteristics. It's also a healthier olive, providing probiotics for improved balance of digestive flora (which may support immune system function). After curing, the olives are rinsed and bottled in a mild solution of sea salt and aji spices for shipment to our air-conditioned facility in Southern California.