I like to start my Spring (or Summer) cleaning in the pantry, or as it’s said in England, the larder or ambry, in French le garde-manger, in German Die Speisekammer, in Latin cellarium. And in Italy la dispensa, where, as in this photo of a shelf in our pantry, extra virgin olive oil (the Bramasole kind) is indispensable.
Harvest date, harvest date, harvest date—if it ain't on the bottle of extra virgin olive oil somewhere, my advice is to put the bottle back on the grocery shelf and find a bottle that has one, if you can. I did a little test earlier in the year at one of the local grocery stores that had nearly one hundred different bottles and cans of extra virgin olive oil, some labeled Spanish or Italian or Mediterranean or Greek or Californian. Most—most—didn’t even have a harvest date, so no one knows how old the oil is—two years, five years? Which means most of the health benefits are gone, as well as the flavors.
As you see, here we are in the middle of 2023 and this oil was harvested in 2021. Still for sale. And worse, you’re told it’s good to keep using it until 2024. Call the EVOO police!
So what are you really left with, only the faint notion that you’ve made a healthy choice (after all, extra virgin olive oil is the only consistently healthy choice for daily cooking) and you’ll add a depth of flavor to what you’ve made for dinner, when, in reality, you may be using a three or four year old oil (oil definitely does not improve with age) of dubious provenance.
And then I had a conversation with a seemingly-knowledgeable person behind the counter at a very high-end grocery store. I picked up a lovely striped ceramic bottle of extra virgin olive oil—very, very pricey—that said Product of Italy (which doesn’t necessarily mean the olive oil was Italian, just that it was packaged in Italy)—with no harvest date at all.
“What’s the harvest date for this?” I asked the guy.
“I don’t know—I bought it for the bottle,” he said.
Take away: If a bottle of extra virgin olive oil does not proudly display its harvest date, save your money.
Below is a photo of the currently sold harvest of Bramasole, from Fall 2022. Harvest year in Italy is commonly listed as "2022 23", which is an agricultural convention to indicate harvest in Fall of 2022. And notice our best by date (April 2, 2024). We recommend using the oil within 18 months after harvest. We will only sell this harvest through August 2023. Thereafter, we begin preparing the Fall 2023 harvest, shipping this olio nuovo in November.