"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces - just good food from fresh ingredients." - Julia Child

Mill & Bake Wheat

Hook & Cook Yellowbelly

Pick & Crumble Peaches

Pick & Preserve Olives

Olive growing has been present in Australia since the early 1800's but the Australian olive growing market really found its feet in the 1990's. Since the 90's the Australian olive industry has gone from strength to strength producing world class premium olive oils, with the olive oil from Forbes considered amongst the best.

There are two main olive products olive oil and table olives. Over eighty percent of olives produced in Australia are dedicated to olive oil production. Australian olive oil is world renowned for its high quality extra virgin olive oil, highly regarded for its taste, smell and colour.

In 2012 the Australian olive market was valued at $70 million producing over 13,000 tonnes of oil. Today there is just a handful of commercial olive producers in Forbes currently producing many tonnes of olives per annum.

History of the olive

The olive is a tree native to the Mediterranean basin and is a staple of its people. Traditional Mediterranean diets use olives fermented in brine or lye (lye is a solution of ash soaked in water).

The olive is a rich cultural symbol for the people of the Mediterranean dating back to ancient times. The extension of an olive branch is a gesture of peace and reconciliation. It is the olive branch which traditionally lights the Olympic flame and in Greek traditions when olive leaves are worn as a crown on the head of victors, it is a symbol of glory.

Growth of an olive tree

Olive trees range from eight to 15 metres in height. Olive trees can grow to extraordinary ages, a number have lived for 1,000 years and others are reported to be as much as 2,000 years old. Although as the olive trees age their trunks become increasingly gnarled. Amazingly olive trees over the age of 1,000 years continue to bear fruit.

Olive trees reach fruit bearing years anywhere between three to 12 years with the average at around four years. Olive trees thrive in well drained soils. They have the knack of surviving where other plants may falter, such as steep hills, poor soils and arid conditions.

The lifecycle of the olive

Olive trees develop small white feathery flowers, they are wind pollinated and take up to nine months to transform into fruit. When olive trees bloom they have two types of flowers, perfect flowers which include both male and female parts and staminate flowers which contain only male parts.

Olives are sensitive to the climate. Although cool temperatures can threaten the olive which prefer more temperate climates, the olive, like the peach, requires a cold spurt of around seven degrees celsius for flower development. Wet weather can adversely affect wind pollination while conversely extreme heat, during flower formation, may compromise the quality of fruit.

Olive harvest

Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage. Ripe olives are olives that have turned green to black-purple. There are many varieties of olive oils lending themselves to different styles of produce.

Harvest time for olives will vary with factors such as the degree latitude and the specific microclimate of the olive grove. Olive harvests often peak biannually. An olive tree that bore an abundance of fruit in one year may have a light crop the following year.

The harvest of an olive is still done by hand. Nets are placed on the ground to catch fruit which has been shaken, raked or beaten from the tree. Small devices such as shakers, spinning tongs or rakes, may be used to assist with harvest.

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Processing the olive

Timing is everything to quality outcomes. Great olive oil and table olives depend on quality fruit that has been harvested at the optimum moment and processed the same day. A 24 hour turn around to processing is critical as the olive begins to compost when it is stored in bins after harvest.

There are four key steps into the processing of olive oil

1. Crushing olives
The olive becomes an oil when it is processed into a paste using a stone or hammermill.

2. Malaxation
  After crushing, malaxation occurs where droplets of oil combine.

3. Separate the oil
The next step is to separate oil from solids and waste water through a centrifugal decanter.

4. Carefully store
When the oil is settled it is bottled and carefully stored. Proper storage is vital to the quality of the olive oil as it can be harmed when it is exposed to heat, light and air.

Table olives must be harvested with even more care than the olive oil harvest, care is taken not to damage the fruit. Table olives are typically harvested with baskets around the workers neck.

Take your pick of olives

You can visit the Gibson Grove Olive Farm on Open Days, or you can purchase yourself some of Forbes glorious table olives and olives oils at the Forbes Visitor   Information Centre, 7 days a week or other leading Forbes grocers. On open day you can join the local olive farmer on harvest day and pick your own olives.

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