Sunday, 28 April 2013

Zeytin, or Olive, by any other name!

The trees we raided today
 3 years ago, Mike read a couple of books about English folk having olive farms in France.  He was so inspired that he wanted us to have our own little grove on this tiny piece of edible landscape.  So we planted 14 olive trees,crammed into a space wherever we could find an empty spot.  Last year, we picked a small jar of olives and bottled them (around 30 olives in total).  On hearing about this "success", we were invited by our local Dutch olive farmer, Bert, to pick what he termed "bird fodder", after his harvesting of olives for olive oil production.  We managed to pick about 3 buckets of olives for pickling and we hope to repeat that experience this year, but today we went up to local Henri and Megan's place to pick a half-bucketful of olives from their 5 trees.  And to boast of our successful olive increase: yesterday we picked about half a bucketful of our own olives, a huge improvement from last years tiny bottle of olives!  And they are big and fat!
Our own trees' harvest
"French Henry", as he is known locally, and his wife Megan, run a pizza and bread making business and are so busy with that, that they do not have time to pick their own olives, so today we went to their block of untamed wilderness and with a child's rake tied onto the end of a wooden pole, we combed the branches to pull out the olives onto a waiting tarpaulin spread below the trees.  It took 2 hours to half-fill a bucket and we were able to exchange 2 bags of organic coffee, a jar of last-year's cured olives, home-made herb salt, organic pasta and rice cakes.  Megan then gifted us 2 sour dough ciabattas!  What a wonderful life, to connect with local people and exchange goods!
We spotted this iridescent kingfisher on our way up ... camera shy.
The name Zeytin is Turkish for olive, and is the name of our most favourite restaurant in downtown Tauranga.  The decor is impressive, like a real Turkish trattoria, and makes wonderful vegetarian dishes.  We love Indian food, but then we equally love Mediterannean foods!  So yesterday, I made a HUGE batch of hummus,  about 1.4 kg!  It is easy to freeze in pottles, which we you can take out of the freezer and defrost before stirring and eating.  Hummus, with olives, olive oil, sesame seed dukka, avocado and soft white home-made bread - mmmmn, simply delicious!

1.4kg hummus 
I have been on holiday this week, and yesterday it hit me how exhausted I was, after a week of intense harvesting and preserving all our Autumn fruits!  This is where blessing becomes curse!  I am hell bent on not allowing any food to go to waste which, of course, is a whipping rod for my own back and creates a flurry of activity.  What I have been unable to  process, I have given away to the local backpackers, rest home and friends.  Each day, I pick up a bucketful of feijoas, a 2L bowl of red cherry guavas every second day, a 2L bowl of figs every second day, apples - boxes full ever second or third day - all needs to be processed, eaten or given away!  Much too much for a family of 3!
Olives from Henri and Megan
Note the cork with several iron nails hammered into it,
used for piercing the olives for the curing process.
Our own olive trees are growing at a crazy rate, and have to be pruned back real hard every year.  The soil is too fertile and we have high rainfall which makes them grow too quick.  Both Mike and I had a unfortunate experience of having our eyes poked with olive leaves, which have a nasty prickly point.  From now on, we have decided to wear safety goggles when picking or pruning them - it took me about 2 days to get my vision cleared, I think it has a little anti-viral component which irritates the eye.   Mike is still nursing a red eye!  I have been reminded to boil a few olive leaves in my next immune-boosting cold teas.  I have been making a concoction of sage and chamomile, sweetened with honey, quite pleasing to the palate when cold.

Discovering the source of information on olives, brings to mind the fact that Olives are the signature food for male testicles (if my memory serves me well).  And I am sure that science will back this match, in relation to the good oil and what it does for fertility!  In fact it is listed as the tree of health, wealth, peace, hope, light, wisdom and fertility!  The olive leaves can boost immune systems over winter, so I am going to collect some of our leaves from the pruned olive trees and dry them, so I can regularly use them in our infusions through winter.  This is taken from

Tea from Olive Leaves
The leaves from olive trees can be useful in tea production. You may use either leaves directly collected from the tree or buy from the market.
Recipe: Pestle the leaves and pour 1 or 2 spoons in boiling water. Five or ten minutes later leech and add some sugar or honey. The tea from olive trees can become very bitter if you boil it much time.
This tea gives you much energy and it is recommended for adults to drink one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night, for young children one cup of tea per day and for school students one cup in the morning and one in the evening.

Now starts the tedious task of covering the olives in water, which is changed daily for the next 30 days, before making up the brine to preserve them.  Mmmmmn, will have to be patient, as they need a further 3 months to cure after the water washing process.  Damn, no wonder they are so expensive!  A labour-intensive process to the final end product!  I guess I can open up a few more of last year's jars now.  I had been saving them  like a miser hoards and saves his pennies for a rainy day, but now that we have started the new process, we can begin to tuck into last year's bounty!

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