My husband picking small green olives
What started as a practicle tree choice for a landscaping project has turned into a great source of extra virgin olive oil for my family. Saturday, we harvested 280 lbs of olives from these lovely 10 year old trees and took the olives to the community press day at our local olive press. Our olives are being pressed with olives from other small growers in Sonoma County and we’ll get delicious, antioxidant rich high quality extra virgin olive oil in 2 weeks.
The climate where we live in Coastal Northern California is similar to Province France or Tuscany Italy so olives do well here. I choose olive trees because they’re attractive, draught tolerant and the right size and shape for shading the outdoor dining table in my herb garden. The added bonus is the olives. Our trees produce large meaty olives that make wonderful oil and cured olives.
To harvest olives for oil you have to wait until 80% have turned from green to black, which for us is between Thanksgiving and mid December. One year, we harvested the day after Thanksgiving with a house full of my daughter’s college aged Thanksgiving guests. It was a sight to see lovely young adults brimming with youthful vitality up in the trees and on ladders picking olive.
This year the harvest was up to my husband and I. We have to get the olives to the press within 24 hours of harvest. It’s a joy to rake the fruit off the branches, hearing it fall on the tarps like rain on a roof. The fruit is absolutely beautiful; glossy plump olives ranging in color from of olive green to black. I love to see bins full of olives going up the conveyor belt to the press. In 2 weeks we return to the press and pick up our oil. I expect to have 8 gallons or more!
Olives going up into the press
We let our new oil mature for several months before we use it. This allows the flavors to mellow. (‘Green’ oil is really peppery) When ready to use, our oil’s flavor is extraordinary! I’m a believer in concept of ‘terroir’ , the idea that the flavors of a food (or wine) reflect the soil and growing conditions specific to where the food originated. Pairing foods grown in similar locations creates harmonious flavors. I think my olive oil pairs well with the produce form my vegetable garden and I love using them together.
We use almost no butter in my kitchen because of this bounty of olive oil. I drizzle it on most salads, mix it with roasted bell peppers to top crostini, drizzle more on goat cheese as an appetizer, then drizzle more on soup to add an Italian flavor etc etc….
Extra virgin olive oil is a rich source of polyphenol antioxidants. My lovely garden with it dappled shade has turned out to be a natural dietary super-food source. I could prevent the trees from fruiting, but instead, we enjoy the wonderful oil that comes from our landscape trees.
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