Yes, eco-friendly BBQ briquettes made from olive pips! This is one of those brilliant why-haven’t-more-people-thought-of-this-before ideas. After all, cultivators in Greece press countless tons of olives every year; what exactly do they do with all the solid residue?
Upon closer inspection it turns out—as one should have expected—to have been something people have been doing in different ways for many, many years. Poverty being the handmaiden of both ingenuity and frugality—despite current crisis discourse to the contrary, our Northern neighbors have no patent on Sparsamkeit and thrift—Greek farmers and cultivators made good use of the waste products of primary cultivation. The residue left over after olives were pressed for oil, the so-called pomace-wood, was used as fuel to fire kilns and provide energy for mills. And the dust-like residue from that was used as fuel for the braziers that were used for cooking.
The company that Klimis Klimentidis founded in 1968 in Asprohoma in Kalamata to produce lime fertilizer (V & A Kottaridis S.A.) is the only one in Greece that produces olive pip briquettes (note: the ones for barbecue are called “vegetable coal” on the company’s Greek-based website). When he started his business, he used locally produce pomace-wood to fire his kilns to produce the lime. There must have been some flash of inspiration at some point many years later which made him think of pressing the byproduct of this firing process—recycled waste product of a recycled waste product—into cylinders of briquettes that could be used for heating home stoves but also as barbeque fuel (in Greek pirinokarvouno).
For its patented briquette product, this family-run Greek company, which continues to produce non-toxic lime for organic farming, earned the 2009 European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) award in the small-organization category. Compared to traditional wood charcoal, Klimis’ BBQ briquettes (i.e. “vegetable coal”) reportedly release 30% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, ignite more easily and don’t spark. Naturally, the briquettes have no chemical additives. Apparently they don’t emit the smoke charcoal briquettes do, which is perhaps one reason why they’re used in open-kitchen/open-grill restaurants in Japan and Scandinavia where the company exports to, but which perhaps may be a downside for the BBQ chefs who consider a good smoke the sina qua non of a successful grill.
The briquettes are available in Corinth, Crete, Argolida, Santorini and Attiki through selected distributors and is exported to the Netherlands, Sweden and Japan. The company’s products are slated to be presented at the Garden Retail Show this September in Birmingham under the “Artisan Olive” label and with the attractive new packaging illustrated in the image above. One can only wish them good luck!