Olive Oil

Italian Prisoners Find Rehabilitation Through Olive Oil Production

Italy’s last island prison of Gorgona is not only home to hardened criminals, but it is also home to the rare Bianca di Gorgona — a type of olive that’s only found within this remote locale.

As a means of rehabilitation, inmates of the island prison take part in producing extra virgin olive oil from the Bianca di Gorgona. What’s more unusual is that the prison employs a unique system where at least 50 of the island’s 60 inmates are not locked up in cells. Instead, they spend their days freely tending to agricultural work and farm animals. It’s only in the evening that they remain locked up in their rooms.

Among the agricultural activities consumed by the inmates includes tending to an olive grove of about 1,000 trees, including Leccino, Moraiolo and Bianca di Gorgona olives.

“Gorgona Penal Colony is the result of a great work of Prison Administration,” said Special Inspector Mario Pascale. “The job opportunity offered to the inmates assigned to the island is unique in Italy. They are trained and prepared to return to the community, having served the sentence.”

In addition to olive oil production, inmates can also participate in the making of bread, cheese, and wine, as well as tend to the island’s some 250 farm animals. Although bad weather has hampered olive cultivation in recent years, this season is proving to be much more fruitful.

“From about 30 plants of the native cultivar we obtained approximately 40 liters of a bright green, slightly fruity monovarietal EVOO, with hints of freshly cut grass,” noted Agricultural Technical Director Federico Falossi. “We wish to have a rich harvest soon to put it back into operations.”

The olives were named by agronomist Francesco Presti, following his analysis of the unique olive in 2012. “My daughter’s name is Bianca and when we had to choose the nomenclature for the new variety, I chose Bianca di Gorgona in her honor,” Presti confessed.

Presumed to have been originally planted by Carthusian monks sometime in the 1700s, the isolation of this environment led to the development of a completely new type of olive. In addition to yielding a good quality extra virgin olive oil, the trees today are also providing a valuable service to its current inhabits.


East Meets West with This Amazing Sweet, Spicy Balsamic Chicken

It’s amazing how versatile quintessentially Mediterranean flavors can be. For this recipe, the sweet richness of our balsamic vinegar pairs nicely with the spicy, savory flavors of Asian cuisine. It delivers the perfect balance, sure to please lovers of sweet and spicy. Best of all, the glaze pairs well with chicken or fish.


  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (or more if you want spicier)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 (180-200g approx each) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped for garnish


In a 1-gallon zip-top plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, olive oil, honey, vinegar, Sriracha, ginger, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Add the chicken, toss to coat evenly, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Remove the chicken from the bag, reserving the marinade, and add to a baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Pour marinade over chicken. Now place in the oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes.

Remove chicken to serving plate.

Optional: Pour cooked marinade into a small pot. Add 2 additional tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Cook a few minutes until the sauce has thickened a bit. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken before serving.

Finally, sprinkle the chicken with the chopped scallions. You may also garnish with a bit of lime juice for a hint of citrus.


Is Morocco the Next Great Olive Oil Producing Region?

Greece, Spain, Italy, California. These are the world’s most notable regions when it comes to olive oil. But there’s a newcomer to the world’s olive oil producing stage — Morocco.

Already one of the biggest exporters of table olive, the North African country is also aiming to become one of the world’s largest olive oil producers over the next few years. Helping olive oil producers is a national initiative called Green Morocco, which was started in 2008 to help transform the country’s agricultural sector into a stable source of growth, competitiveness and inclusive economic development.

morocco_agricultureUnder this new government-backed plan, the country expects to boost the number of acres reserved for oil trees. Additionally, a staggering 2.5 million metric tons of oil olive is expected to be produced by 2020.

Today, Morocco’s olive cultivation is increasing, accounting for 15% of the country’s national agro-food exports. With about 45% of of the working population employed in agriculture, the olive business is a key area that the government believes will help reduce unemployment and create thousands of new, permanent jobs.

As a strategic priority for growth, olives are becoming an important local product. With the government’s steady and substantial investment, Morocco may just become a tour de force in worldwide olive oil production at a level on par with more established regions.

For more on Moroccan agriculture and updates on olive cultivation, check out the Moroccan Center for Export Promotion’s website.