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Growing Olive Trees

About Coolana Olives

In episode four of Matthew Hayden’s Home Ground Matt visits Coolana Olives, a 16-acre farm with 1000 trees, an hour west of Brisbane.

Ian and Dot Roy bought the farm in 1985, but it wasn’t until 1997 that olive trees were planted. Ian saw olive trees over 120-years-old over the hill from his property. He figured that if they could withstand drought and fire over such a long period of time, they would probably grow on his farm, too.

In a good year, Coolana’s 1000 trees have the potential to produce 10 tonnes of olives. Picking season is from March to April and they grow several different types of olives, including Manzanillo (Spanish) and Kalamata (Greek).

The Roys produce a range of products on their farm, from infused olive oil to balsamic glazes and flavoured olives. You can find out more about Coolana Olives at http://coolanaolives.com.au/.

Growing olive trees

It can take four to six years for olive trees to bear fruit but they live for hundreds of years!

A one-year-old plant can start from around $20 while a more mature plant could set you back $250.

An aerated, well drained, neutral soil is best for growing olives and they only need to be watered around once a week. You’ll need to prune them on a yearly basis to allow for new growth. This is best done after harvesting which is usually from March to April.

Being an evergreen tree, the olives are sensitive to hard freezing temperatures. Buds and fruiting shoots are usually damaged by temperatures below -5ºC. Olives love areas with cool winters and hot, dry summers which is most of Southern Australia.

Processing olives

Olives need to be processed or cured within hours of being picked. They are completely inedible when you pick them and need to be soaked, salted and preserved in oil to remove their bitterness.

There are several ways to cure olives depending on what type you are dealing with. As a guide, they need to be washed thoroughly and placed in a deep pan with brine. Brine is made of salt and water. One-fourth of a cup of salt to one quarter of a cup of water is fine but make sure no olives are poking above the mixture.

Cover the mixture and leave for around three to six weeks. Shake the mixture daily and taste often after the three-week mark. You can change the brine once every week. Once the olives are to your taste, remove them from the pan and wash again. Store olives in an airtight container or in the freezer.

Olives are about 75 per cent fats. Most of the fat is the good kind – monounsaturated - which means olives are rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E. Unfortunately they are also high in sodium due to the brining so they complement cheeses nicely.

 
 

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