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Caltech will mass produce its own brand of olive oil

Caltech will mass produce its own brand of olive oil

Producing olive oil from the trees on campus could soon launch Caltech, a place best known for rocket science, into the rarified orbit of gourmet condiments.
Sixty of Caltech's 130 olive trees will be used this fall to harvest bottles of "Olive Walk," named after a campus walkway that is stained black by the number of olives that fall to the ground each year.
Students, faculty and grounds crews will do the work from ladders and cherry pickers.
The idea came from two students who proposed an experiment to the new Caltech president, Jean-Lou Chameau, an engineer who loves cooking.
Students Ricky Jones and Dvin Adalian asked themselves: Could Caltech's trees produce enough olive oil to bottle the stuff?
Chameau challenged them to try it and, if it worked, he promised to cook them dinner at his residence.
The students, with help at times from as many as 15 friends, took up the dare. Through trial and error, they were able to separate 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) of black and green olives from water and solids.
They used window screens as part of their makeshift olive presses, then purified their final product by spinning it in biology lab centrifuges.
"They are different chemical structures, and because of that they don't bind to each other and don't have the same molecular weight. So you use a centrifuge to take advantage of that property and separate them by density. So oil will go to the top and water will go to the bottom, along with dirt and particulate matter," explained Jones.
The result: a half-liter of oil that Chameau's wife, technology researcher Carol Carmichael, said tasted "wonderful."
Their success inspired Delmy Emerson, Caltech's buildings and grounds director, to send a batch of olives to a commercial presser. Out of that came 54 small bottles that are being given to university donors, guests and staff.
This fall the experiment expands in a big way when 60 trees are harvested as part of a campus festival.
Organizers hope to produce 3,000 bottles of oil and sell them on campus. They hope to raise as much as $30,000 (euro21,990), which will likely be used for scholarships or bonuses for campus gardeners.
Caltech, which operates the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where rocket engines are tested, is not the first university to enter the world of olive oil harvesting and processing. The University of California, Davis, and California State University, Fresno, also pick and sell their own brands.
But Craig Makela, president of the Santa Barbara Olive Co., joked that Caltech might become the first school to send a bottle of its olive oil to the moon.


Updated : 2021-04-20 13:20 GMT+08:00