Myrta and Nikos Kalampokas
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Myrta and Nikos Kalabokas

Eirini Plomariou: The global dissemination and recognition of the “Kolovi” variety

In the mountainous slopes of Plomari, in the southeastern part of the island, the olive groves of the Kalabokas family have dominated the area for more than five centuries.

Myrta and Nikos Kalabokas are the soul of the project, assisted always by their four children, Konstantina, Maria, Irini (hence the name of the product that came from Myrta’s mother) and Panagiotis. They met on the island in the early 1980s, when Nikos went as a student to the Academy of Mytilene. Although they are separate people, each with special traits and virtues, however it is their relationship that magnetizes their interlocutor, it is the kindness, respect and companionship that they exude for one another that gives breath and prospect to their endeavor.

To unravel the tangle of a 24-year course, we crossed the route from the picturesque village of Plomari with its colorful neoclassical houses to the semi-mountainous slopes and found ourselves in the company’s modern facilities among the vast olive groves, which include the olive mill, the packaging and the storage area.

Both teachers by profession, they started from the need to take advantage of the legacy they inherited from their parents, so they in turn, could leave something as a legacy to their children. Initially, the cultivation and distribution of the product in bulk was unprofitable. So in 1996 they decided to turn to organic farming to meet the need for a healthy diet that was constantly gaining ground as well as the need for differentiation in relation to competition.

In 2008, with the certification of DIO for the production of organic products, Eirini Plomariou was created, with the trademark of the sculptural work of Rosa Iliou, depicting a hand holding an olive branch. That same year, their participation in a domestic competition gave them the Golden Taste Award, which prompted them to analyze the aromatic profile of olive oil. The analysis of the sample sent to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich showed a palette of aromas, such as wild grass, bitter almond, wild artichoke, rosemary, sage and savory. Returning to the olive groves, they realized that all these plants and herbs coexist with the olive trees and as the pollination is accomplished through air, the essential oils of these various plants pass into the olive and its fruit.

Today, the family cultivates more than 20,000 olive trees in a mountainous volcanic area.

“It is very important that Kolovi is an indigenous variety that has been thriving and is being cultured in the same place for many centuries”

The choice of organic farming follows strict practices, which include reusing waste from pruning to fertilize the olive grove, while the pH of the soil is enriched by planting vegetable legumes (vetch, beans) that release nitrogen until the end of the flowering period. Before flowering, they are cut with a lawn mower and the residue is reused as green fertilizer in the olive grove. Five horses are responsible for cleaning the estates, moving freely in the olive groves, cleaning the dry grass and fertilizing, while at the same time protecting the areas from fires. During the cleaning period, the tree trunks are whitewashed to protect them against fungi. The oiling process, which takes place in the family’s two-phase olive mill, with a 5 ton capacity, ensuring the immediate oiling of the fruit, follows the strictest specifications so that the resulting juice retains all the beneficial properties in the long run, including valuable phenols.

The olive mill has the ISO 22000 certification/2015 while the product bears the seal of AGROCERT with the indication PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and VEGAN for vegetal product certification. It is worth mentioning that due to the high content of phenols, the olive oil bears the health claim from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

The choice of unfiltered is perfectly conscious as on the one hand it involves the concept of authenticity and on the other hand it retains aromas and phenols which in a small percentage are retained during the filtering process. The natural transfusion of olive oil is applied in stainless steel tanks, followed by the packaging and storage of the final product in the privately owned facilities of the family in appropriate temperature and light conditions.

Aiming to disseminate their knowledge and initiate all kinds of visitors to the magical world of olive oil, guided tours of the olive grove and all facilities are organized for school students and tourists of the island, where after the tour follows the tasting of olive oil adapted to each age and the gastronomic delicacies catered entirely by Myrta.

“Olive oil is a sacred product. It will reciprocate your love and whatever you invest you will get it back”

International recognition by leading institutions such as UC Davis University in California in 2009, which has a specialized olive oil research center and countless studies on the contribution of olive oil to the human body and the third prize from the leading Mario Solinas competition in 2011, are proof of the value and high quality of the product but also of the uniqueness of the Kolovi variety, which today thanks to Eirini Plomariou travels all around the world.