Bienvenue dans cette visite pédagogique du Moulin de l’Esquirol ! Suivez les panneaux pour
découvrir la culture de l’olivier et n’hésitez pas à revenir vers nous pour une dégustation gratuite de nos bons produits…
Welcome in this educatinal visit at Moulin de l’Esquirol ! Follow the signboards to discover the
oliver farming and don’t hesitate to come back to us for a free degustation of our good products…
You can find the translation in English just below.
1. Historical Background
The house, named Château de l’Esquirol by its ancestors, has many secrets to tell.
« Le Pradet histoires et Histoire »; attests of its existence more than 300 years ago. This former
vineyard has been divided up many times, according to succession rights and financial needs…
The building, purchased as ruins in 1993 by the Martini Family, took 6 years to be restored using
materials that demonstrate the family’s respect and commitment to the building’s unique past and
The family’s agricultural adventure began in 2002. Originally starting with over nearly 17 hectares,
the farm has been partly rebuilt around the building, by attaching parcels of land acquired after
many ups and downs and over time…but that’s another story!
At Esquirol, we work as a family to offer 100% local and authentic product.
Why “l’Esquirol”? It is assumed that many squirrels (‘‘esquiraù’’ in Provençal) must have lived a
happy life here…
2. The Henhouse
Fresh grass, good grain, bread, the leftovers from our meals, and let’s not forget a big playground…
Happy chickens live here! You can find in the shop our excellent Esquirol fresh eggs. Colours range
from pink, beige, white, chocolate, or even blue or green, based on the breed of the hens.
The lighter colour eggs are reputed to be lower in cholesterol.
If you are lucky, you may even find an egg from a Toulouse goose. The goose lays an egg every 2
or 3 days from March through May. Our chickens are our best weedkiller, so long as foxes leave
By the way, if you see a hole along the fence during your visit, please don’t hesitate to let us
3. The old Orchard
Although the majority of trees were planted from 2002 onwards, the property has about fifty olive
trees that are over three hundred years old. You are standing in front of the two largest trees in the
orchard, which survived the tragic frost of 1956.
The olive tree is said to be immortal because of its triple root system…
– Perforating roots allow it to draw water from deep within the tree and to ensure anchorage,
– A surface root system captures small rain showers and nutrients,
– Then, a last part, half aerial, half underground, called the « shrub »;, constitutes a starch
reserve created by the tree via photosynthesis.
During bad weather, such as frost or fire, the aerial part of the tree is destroyed while the earth
isolates the underground part, allowing it to regenerate. But when it does, it grows back into a wild
olive tree called the oleaster which produces very small olives with large stones.
In order to preserve these trees, we grafted them with the varieties of our choice, with the intent to
There are two types of grafting: cresting and crown grafting. The month of May is the ideal for
crafting as the upward flow of sap is greater at that time. Only prolonged flooding can be deadly for
the olive tree, causing root asphyxiation.
Vocabulary schema :
Ecusson = Crest
Pétiole = Petiole
Bourgeon = Bud
Greffon = Graft
Oeil = Eye
Incision = Incision
Arbre à greffer = Grafted tree
4. The youngest orchard
These olive trees were planted in 2002 following the Provence Olive Oil Protected Designation of
Origin (PDO) criteria:
Parcel criteria: defined by the National Institute in charge of Origin and Quality (INAO)
Varietal criteria: Aglandau, Picholine, Bouteillan and Cayon
Farming criteria: such as planting density of 24m2 minimum, annual soft pruning, forbidden
intercropping, harvest date set each year and watering must stop by September 30…
We take a balanced approach to agriculture, meaning that we do not systematically apply chemical
treatments. Chemical treatments however can be essential to maintain a proper phytosanitary
environment at times. We choose to rely on them only when necessary, using the least harmful
products possible on the environment and auxiliary fauna.
Micro-irrigation under canopy also allows fertigation, using one third less fertiliser than in
The orchard’s soil is filled with grass, and regular shredding of the soil creates a natural
amendment, which allows it to keep an elevated humidity level, and enhances the soil’s capacity to
5. The 4 seasons of the olive tree
After the harvest, which ends in December, the trees are in state of vegetative rest. Basic manuring
(phosphorus and potash) allows the soil to reconstitute the reserves that were drawn by the tree.
Depending on the hygrometry and temperature, it can be necessary to protect the foliage from
cryptogamic diseases (in particular peacock’s eye) by micro-spraying the foliage with an antifungal
(copper). In February-March comes pruning.
We prune gently following 3 criteria:
– Photosynthetic: we create a light well in the centre of the tree.
– Fruiting: we remove the non-structural wood that bore fruit last year to make room for to
the new shoots that will bear the olives of the coming harvest.
– Agronomic and structuring: we limit the height of the tree to facilitate harvesting, the
branches in the inter-row for the passage of tools, as well as branches that are too low.
Regeneration pruning may be conducted on older trees after a few years.
The trimmed wood is crushed on the spot and returned to the soil so as to be transformed into
humus; this avoids burning the trees (emitting CO2 emissions into the atmosphere).
With the arrival of warmer weather, it is important to continue protecting the foliage from
cryptogamic diseases (fungus on the leaves) depending on the weather and to mow the grass to
improve the air circulation under the foliage to limit the spread of diseases. This mowing is repeated
approximately every 3 weeks.
At the beginning of May, flowers start blooming: at the white bud stage (a few days before
opening), we micro-spray trace elements (Boron and Zinc) to help the flowers hold.
This operation is repeated 3 weeks later to improve the percentage of fruit sets (flower transforming
Pollination is anemophilous (it is done by the wind) and only five percent of the flowers (at best!)
will turn into olives. Depending on the soil hygrometry, fertigation (water + nitrogen) may be
carried out (1 m3 per tree every 15 days).
Picture : White buds – Flowers – Flowers Flowering
5.c. Summer : Growth and protection of fruits
Summer brings high heat. We increase irrigation (1m3 per tree per week).
At the end of June, the olives are at the « grain of rice » stage and must be protected from the main
pest: the olive fly (Bactrocera Olea).
Unfortunately, those flies are the reason we cannot be organic as we risk losing our entire crop
otherwise! However, we work with a moderated, environmental and eco-responsible approach. We
use synthetic pyrethrins between July and mid-September, applied via micro-spray and contact
(these are non-systemic products meaning that none gets into the sap or the fruit of the tree), which
areeliminated by the sun’s UV rays.
For extra caution, we double the persistence time (time when the active substance of the product is
present on the plant) right before harvest.
We continue mowing the grass. At the end of the summer, the olives reach their maximum size and
are ready to be harvested as green table olives; a long and meticulous harvest is conducted by hand,
in order to select the most beautiful fruits.
5.d Fall : The harvest
Harvesting begins in mid-October and continues until December. It is carried out in a semi-
mechanical way: we unroll nets on the ground and remove the olives with electric combs. An olive
tree generates a significant harvest starting at 5 years of age when it produces on average 5 kg of
olives; at 6 years old, 6 kg etc. Until 15 years old. Thereafter, the harvest will be stable or perhaps
increase, but will no longer be proportional to the tree’s age.
Based on the variety and maturity of the olives used, we obtain completely different tastes. The
maturity of the olives determines the typicality of the olive oil; there are three stages:
– Green fruitiness: Olives are harvested at early maturity, from mid-October to mid-
November at veraison (i.e.the onset of ripening) giving the oil primary herbaceous flavours,
ardency or bitterness depending on the varieties used.
– Ripe fruitiness: Olives are picked at the end of the harvest, in December, when the olives
have reached optimum maturity; we obtain flavours of dried fruit, yellow fruit, red fruit,
– Black fruitiness: Olives are picked at the beginning of maturity but contrary to the two
above, they will not be transformed immediately; it will be necessary to wait for
fermentation in a closed environment for approximately 10 days. This oil cannot be called
« extra virgin »; because its acidity level is too high. The result is roasted aromas.
To say that an olive oil is « fruity »; is therefore a pleonasm! And the difference between a green
olive and a black olive is simply the maturity!
6. Deciphering a label
Extra virgin: designates a level of acidity less than 0.8. A low acidity level guarantees that the
olives used are healthy and that they are processed quickly after harvesting. Between 0.8 and 1.2,
the olive oil is « virgin ». A black fruity can never obtain this appellation however, it does not mean
it’s a bad product!
Must be kept away from heat and light: In order to protect it from oxidation and to avoid the
alteration of the aromas. Inert materials (glass or stainless steel) are preferred for packaging rather
than plastic, to prevent potential exchanges due to the corrosiveness of the olive oil. Contact with
air should always be avoided to limit oxidation once again.
Unfiltered product: this allows to preserve most of the oil’s aromatic potential.
Olive oil from France: guarantees a 100% French oil: olives harvested in France and that the oil
was extracted in a French mill. A mill that purchased olives abroad, but processed them in France,
can affix this label. It will however be required to notate olives origins, which are often from the
European Community (CE marking). Aside from the « Huile d’olive de France” label
and the various Protected Designation of Origins (PDOs), any other geographical mentions are
First cold press: We used to speak of « First Cold Pressing » when, traditionally, the olives
were crushed with a millstone and the paste obtained was spread on circular « scourtins » (vegetable
mats) which were then placed under a press. The paste was then pressed and it was called first cold
press. There could then be a second hot pressing and even a third using solvents, which produces
oils of inferior quality, unfit for food consumption. Today we speak of « superior category olive oil
obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical » (crushing, mixing and centrifugation).
The paste that comes out of the crusher is mixed and cooled to a maximum of 27°C to meet
the requirements of « extraction »; this is the optimal temperature that allows to extract most of the
oil contained in the olives without altering the aromas or properties of the oil, allowing to preserve
vitamins, phenols, polyphenols or essential fatty acids.
Regarding cooking: it is a very stable fat which only loses flavours and becomes toxic at 210° (vs
120° for butter, 180° for rapeseed or sunflower); it is thus an ingredient of choice for all your
cooking. But the flavours start degrading around 60°. We therefore advise you to cook with
commercial olive oils (all physically/chemically stable, but with little aroma) and to save a good
olive oil for finishes or raw vegetables; nothing stops you from cooking with it, but it would be a