“AFTER A LOT OF RESEARCH we discovered that olive trees were planted in large numbers in the Inland Empire over 100 years ago, before canals were dug and brought water to the region,” says Zach Thorp. “The olive trees thrived on the granite-like soil and hot temperatures with minimal water, although once water became readily available most people began to plant citrus, which received a better price at the market, and thus became the dominant crop. You can still find swaths of olive groves left over from when they were planted years ago. For us, we fell in love with growing olives and making extra virgin olive oil in Redlands.” Zach and his wife, Andy, have Lot22 shops in Redlands and Riverside where they sell olive oils, balsamic vinegars and other foods. “California olive oil production has improved incredibly over the last 20 years,” says Darrell Corti. He’s a Sacramento grocer and noted food and wine expert who chairs the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition at the Pomona Fairplex, where Lot22 recently won gold and silver medals. Corti notes that locally produced oil is often fresher (check harvest and milling dates) and should be enjoyed promptly. “One should be able to use up a container in about two months,” Corti says. “Otherwise, buy in smaller containers!” Fresh olive oil “can add tremendous flavor to any dish,” Zach says, “not to mention the health benefits from the high polyphenols and antioxidants in the extra virgin olive oil.” – Jeanne Boyer

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