Oil in the veins: the story of Emile Noel

August 3, 2018 6:42 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Emile Noel is – and was, during his life – one of the biggest names in Mediterranean oils. A man of passion and exacting standards, he died aged 82 in 2011, leaving a thriving company built up with his own hands. The Emile Noel business was the fruit of his lifelong passion for good oil: a fitting memorial for a man who lived with oil almost literally running in his veins.

Emile was born in Provence in 1929. ‘I was born in olive oil – you can’t imagine how good it smelled!’, he once announced. This wasn’t literally true; however, his father, a master miller, had bought an old oil mill a few years before. Surrounded by olive groves, Emile spent his childhood in olive country, breathing in the scents of the trees, eating food made from their fruits and celebrating their harvest with the local growers. When he left school, he had only one thought: to build up a proper olive oil business.

Emile worked hard and the business thrived – until disaster struck in the intensely cold March of 1956. This destroyed the majority of France’s olive trees and decimated the business. Together with his wife and children, Emile was reduced to living out of a tent and car. Nevertheless, he persevered and, out of necessity, diversified. He began to crush seeds such as sunflower and rape, which he sourced locally. Gradually, the olive trees grew back too.

The move to organic oils

Nowadays, most of our customers at Naturally Good Food automatically search for organic oils. They recognise that oils produced organically are high in nutrition and flavour and have the lightest environmental impact. Back in the 1970s, however, organic production was a novelty. In 1972 Huilerie Emile Noel became the first mill in France to crush organic seeds. Emile had always been determined to support artisanal methods of production and to respect the balance of the natural world.

‘For us, making products that stayed close to nature was self-evident… To be honest, I’d never have thought of doing anything else. In our family we’ve always loved nature, life in the fields – we had a farm – and walks in the forest, and so on… Organic creates a bond between people who love the land, there’s a particular atmosphere. It also requires a great deal of rigour.’

Today, all of Emile Noel’s oils are organic. The mill has partnered with farmers from around the world, who supply the company with organic oil seeds and oleaginous fruits to be pressed. They repeat the saying: ‘It takes good seeds to make good oils’, sourcing only seeds and fruits of the finest quality. In addition, the directors ensure that sustainability and a decent, fair income for every farmer remain at the heart of the business.

Passing the business on

Emile Noel is still a family-owned business, now in the hands of Emile’s daughter, Annick Garnier, and her son, David. The mill continues to use artisanal, traditional production methods. Its ‘endless screw presses’ are old, but carefully maintained, extracting the oil from the fruit and seeds slowly and gently, at a low temperature. The family firmly believe that this form of cold extraction, with no chemical treatment, protects the nutritional benefits of the fatty acids and vitamins, as well as the taste of the finished product.

Emile Noel at Naturally Good Food

Emile Noel was one of the very first brands we stocked at Naturally Good Food. In our range today, we’ve got:

  • Flax oil (linseed oil): the oil with the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids of all vegetable oils. It protects against high blood pressure and inflammation and is great for muscle recovery, too.
  • Fruity extra-virgin olive oil: a perfect fruity and flavoursome extra-virgin olive oil, rich in mononunsaturated fat and antioxidant protective compounds.
  • Mild extra-virgin olive oil: an ideal olive oil for those who like a delicate taste. This brings all the antioxidant benefits of extra-virgin olive oil, without an overpowering flavour.
  • Pumpkinseed oil: dark green with a distinctive taste, this oil in rich in Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids. The phytosterols found within it help to control cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Sesame oil: an oil with a great balance between oleic and linoleic acid, which help to prevent cardiovascular disease and lower cholesterol. It’s rich in antioxidants, too.
  • Sunflower oil: with a high percentage of vital linoleic acid, this oil helps to regulate cell metabolism, to lower cholesterol and to prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Walnut oil: particularly sought after for its unique taste, this oil is a good supplier of the essential alpha-linolenic fatty acid, which supports good eyesight and brain function. It’s also rich in vitamin E.

Using Emile Noel oils

Emile Noel oils are as versatile as they’re healthy. They’re perfect for cold dressings for salads and vegetables, and can also be heated for use in other culinary applications. Some, such as sesame oil, are popular for massage purposes.

If you’re interested in following a Mediterranean diet (perhaps following a great holiday in the region!), then using an authentic, organic oil from the region is the very best place to start. Choose one of these oils to replace your usual cooking oil – or use one instead of butter, to dip your morning toast into. Rich, distinctive and packed with the best nutritious qualities, these oils truly encapsulate the values, sunshine and vitality of the Mediterranean region.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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