Do you have any impossible-to-buy-for people on your list? People whose houses are already full of stuff, whose tastes tend toward the fancy, who buy themselves whatever they need, leaving you lost and adrift? People like, for example, my parents? Have I got an idea for you.
Nudo is a company run by two Brits who moved to Italy to work with olives. (This sounds like the basis for a novel, doesn’t it?) Apparently olive growing is subject to the same pressures that plague so many other agricultural industries- big conglomerates producing lower-quality product are threatening to crowd out the little guys. To try to combat that trend, Nudo has created a collective of small olive oil producers who use old-school methods, who care for their groves themselves, and who each have their own story of why they are a part of this centuries-old industry. By banding together, they're able to reach out to a wider base of consumers, hopefully keeping their small businesses afloat.
Nudo's signature program allows you to "adopt an olive tree." My sister and I chipped in to get this for our parents last year for the holidays, and it was a home run. The whole process is fun. First, you choose your tree. The Nudo website provides descriptions of the various groves that are part of the collective, with notes on the characteristics of the oil that comes from that grove (like "grassy" or "spicy" or "smooth," or, my personal favorite, "hint of artichoke.")
Once you select your tree, you’ll receive an "adoption certificate," which includes information about your tree as well as the growers who operate the grove where your tree is located.
Then, you’ll receive two shipments of oil. In the spring, you’ll get a large shipment of extra virgin olive oil produced by your tree. Then, in the fall, you’ll get a shipment containing smaller containers of flavored extra virgin olive oil: chili, lemon, and garlic. The exact amount of oil depends on how well the olive harvest goes that year- much like a CSA- but the fall shipment is usually about 2 liters. You’re also, if you’re in the area, welcome to visit your tree. Anyone want to plan a trip to Italy for me so I can go pat my tree lovingly and thank it for giving us such great oil?
It isn't cheap - a little over $100 - but everything is really high quality; nice thick paper, lovely printing, beautifully designed tins. Oh, and most importantly- the oil is really, really delicious. Dunk-your-bread-in-it, lick-it-off-a-spoon, find-excuses-to-use-it delicious.
If the adopt a tree option is a little out of your price range, Nudo also sells olive oil gifts- three packs of flavored oils, individual oil tins, that sort of thing. You can check out all their options at nudo-italia.com.