Nirvana! Olive Heaven. Died. Been there. Returned to tell the tale!
Mike listened to a talking book on his travels in the car, about an English woman who bought an olive farm in France. He so loved it, that I just HAD to listen to it too. The exact words that caught his imagination was the olive trees being described as dancing dervishes. And then we just HAD to buy some olive trees to plant our own little olive grove. So 12 trees were squeezed into spaces which hardly existed for even the smallest of bushes. Given that the New Zealand soil is so fertile and that olives grow in stoney, poor soils, we have had to not only top them several times in the past 3 years, but also move a few from overly cramped confines. So last year I bottled a quarter of a small bottle of olives but they were such a gastronomic success, we waited hungrily for this year's crop. Combined with poor growing conditions and a woeful lack of sunshine this summer, we managed to make a half bottle this year. We can taste this in a few more days time. Having shared this exciting tale with an olive grower at our local market, he offered for us to come and pick our own for $1.30 per kg. OMG!! We were soo excited at the prospect!
The day was set for today, Monday, so at 9am we arrived, gumboots, hats and buckets in hand. We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as our gracious host showed us around his 1000 tree block. Gasping as we spied little green and black orbs hanging in the trees like Christmas baubles, we set to work.
The olive grove stretches as far as the eye could see and we were invited to pick from row no. 3, Manzanillas, after which we could move to rows 4 and beyond. Well, we stopped just short of row no. 3's end (about 20 trees), fully in awe of just how much work is required to pick the little buggers! Neck-breaking stuff! I admire olive pickers the world over! Specially in hot climates! This morning was a little overcast and made for easier picking weather for us Greenies. It took about 2 hours and the three of us were rewarded with a huge crate full of beautiful crimson and leprechaun-coloured fruit (yep, it's a fruit). And not only are they a culinary delight, but they are also packed with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients! They are also high in iron, for us vegetarians! Yippee!!
And wait, there's more! Olives help reduce the chances of osteoporosis and heart disease. How can people NOT like them????
|Half-way along row no. 3|
|I feel so Mediterranean!|
|"How am I going to reach those big ones at the top??"|
My first experiences with olives were not memorable. My family occasionally had olives but I viewed them alongside eating crayfish and crabs legs. Disgusting! Bitter and salty! No thanks!
Then I met my future husband, who changed that view very quickly by introducing me to Camphill Olives! Pure bliss! Couldn't get enough! So by the time our children arrived, olives were very much part of our evening meal-time ritual. It's one of the first foods our kids started to eat and most people would comment on how they were surprised to see little folk eat olives with obvious relish. In fact, the kids would count everyone's olive pips on their plates, to make sure that they had gotten their fair share!
|Beautiful, beautiful olives!|
|Smaller Pendolino olives|
|Happy Campers in the field|
|Dreaming of steaming soft white bread, humus and olives.....|
I googled a recipe on the web, posted by Rudy Nuwayhid who writes "We have some experience with olive curing, some of our trees in mount Lebanon (Mideast) are over 100years old. In our house, we like to pickle the best olives while still green. We then soak them in water for two to three days. We prepare the brine by adding rock salt to clean water until a raw egg floats and then we add a teaspoon of citric acid to the brine (per two litre brine). The olives are cut on two sides (wounded) and put into clean 2 litre jars bit by bit while placing a slice of fresh lemon on the jar side as we go up. When nearly full we add the brine until coverage and put a couple of bay leaves on top with a slice of lemon too. We top the lot with some olive oil and close the jar (sealed). The jar is placed aside in a dark store and may be used as soon as a few months away or even the next year."
Fat chance we could wait a year! But otherwise sounds easy, feasible and quite possible!
|Ripened Manzanillo Olive|
|Beautiful olive jewels......|
|Dragging our weary bodies away from Olive Heaven.|
So the general idea now, is to soak our olives in water and follow the above recipe. Then I'll make up a brine solution, bottle them and add some herbs, garlic and spices (experimenting with different ones). Then they will cure over a few weeks before we can open them up and taste....... Should last us a few months!
|Our olives separated into greens and blacks, immersed in water.|
Our olive farmer gifted the olives to us in the end, as he said he would not get to picking any more as he was too busy pressing olive oil for the next few weeks, so we returned the favour by taking him a couple of pouches of Inca Fe organic ground coffee and some home-made plum jam as a token of appreciation. Maybe we can give him some cured olives too, if we can bear to part with a bottle or two!