Dad planted an olive tree about the time he planted the coffee, so in the vicinity of 13 years ago. We’ve always talked about it as the tree that never fruits. We were advised that olives don’t need a cultivar like some fruiting trees, and this tree was in the coffee grove, so it was well fed and well watered. Just never yielded olives. We assumed it was an ornamental non-fruiting variety. But it wasn’t. It was just waiting.
A couple of weeks ago Adam was in the coffee grove and stood on a fruit. He picked it up, confused, the coffee cherries are currently the size of a tiny pea and bright green and this was fleshy and black. He looked up. The olive tree, let to grow to about 20 metres tall, (if it wasn’t bearing fruit it might as well provide shade for the grove), was dripping with ripe olives. Dripping. As olives are, no exaggeration, Adam’s favourite food of all time, he was about as excited as I’ve ever seen him. Which is pretty excited.
Mum and Dad have very good friends who moved to Gerringong a few years ago after retiring from their olive farm near Tamworth. (Seriously, lucky stars anyone?) So it was David and Carolyn Evans that I called while standing under this massively laden tree, with no idea how to proceed.
They’re awesome, and they turned up first thing the next morning with instructions and laughs and helped us prune the tree to a reasonable size and pick 27kg of Manzanillo olives.
Most of these photos were taken by our intern Tory (thanks Tors!x)
Carolyn also gave me some great instructions to follow regarding brining and preparing the olives. I think one of the most shocking things about olives is the time they take to brine! Weeks! They’re still brining! We sorted into green and black, and we’ve got a bucket that has ‘cut’ olives that will be ready quicker, and we trialled one bucket in fresh water but they were so far from being ready this week that we’ve put them under brine too. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
And when you’ve got fresh olive leaves, you’d be daft not to have a go at Olive Leaf Extract, right? I used this process over here on Olive Day, and am about to drain it, and now expect to live to 150 years old with a lifetime supply of antioxidant at the ready. I rushed up to the bottle shop at lunchtime to buy two bottles of inexpensive vodka for this purpose and of course, ran into a genteel friend of my mother’s. It’s a powerful look, at the check out holding two cheap bottles of vodka at 1pm with leaves in your hair, no really, it’s for medicinal purposes, really it is.
Could be about 150 years before those olives lose their bitterness and taste delicious. Luckily we’ll be propped up by our leaf extract until then.
Pretty excited, did I mention that? Every time I look at those drums of olives in the corner of the commercial kitchen I feel excited that we’ll one day, in many many many weeks, have olives from our own freaky fine-I’ll-grow-some-fruit-this-year-shall-I Manzanillo tree. Next up on Adam’s to-do list (from me): GRAPES! He’ll love that.