I'm crazy about olive oil infused with herbs for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
Rosemary infused olive oil is delicious drizzled on potatoes or popcorn. Calendula infused oil is a miraculous skin treatment. Olive oil is the healthy choice for my heart and Extra Virgin Olive Oil - EVOO - is a mainstay of my wannabe gourmet kitchen.
Everybody knows that the countries bordering the Mediterranean sea produce most of the world's olives - Spain, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, France - 90 percent of which is pressed into oil. So Texas is the last place I'd look for the kind of goodness these sun-drenched countries press into a quality olive oil.
Yet here it is.
The Texas Olive Oil Council reports that heart-healthy olive oil is giving a healthy economic boost to Texas agricultural community.
It has revived idle farmland and brought diversity to the state's agribusiness. The Texas Olive Oil Council, USDA and Texas Department of Agriculture have also launched several research and education programs to support the growth of Texas' newest cash crop. Industry leaders believe that olive growers' success will ultimately flow into other sectors. And now some of the growers, such as the Texas Olive Ranch, have raised the visibility of this uniquely "homegrown Texan" product as extra-virgin Texas olive oil. It's available at 20 farmer's markets and takes prominent shelf space in H-E-B, Central Market and Whole Foods stores throughout the state.
How the Texas olive oil industry came to be is a story in itself according to Virginia Wood, food writer of the Austin Chronicle:
Jim Henry is a bona fide Texas olive oil pioneer. On a business trip in southern Europe in the early Nineties, Henry saw land planted with olive trees that reminded him of the Texas Hill Country. He returned to Texas and began inquiring about the possibility of growing olives here. "Everyone I talked to told me their research showed that olives wouldn't survive in Texas. When I would ask to see the research, they'd admit there really wasn't any. It was just that the conventional wisdom was that olives wouldn't work here. One extension agent who is a stone fruit expert told me that planting olive trees would be romantic folly," Henry recalls ruefully.
Let your taste buds tell the tale.
On Saturday, March 26, Threadgill's on North Lamar is host to The First Texas Olive Oil Tasting Contest: Texas vs. the World, an event that promises to be packed with people, information and fun.
Sample the differences in quality olive oil from Texas, Mexico, Argentina, Italy and Spain plus an estate olive oil from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico at tasting stations.
Savor Threadgill's signature home cooking prepared with authentic Texas olive oil.
Watch a rough cut screening of the film, "Texas Olive Trails", a documentary airing on PBS stations in June 2011.
Stay for a special concert featuring TexMex accordion maestro and Grammy award winner Joel Guzman Band (featured in the "Crazy Heart" movie) to cap the evening.
Let me know how you liked it.