Top oils prove worth the time

WHEN Christine Mann bought a property next door to her family’s farm in 2013 she did not know much about olives.

That changed quickly and today the property, Glendale at White Hills, is home to Tasmania’s second largest olive grove.

Across the farm, there are 9500 trees, which were planted in 2000.

“It was a pretty steep learning curve,” Ms Mann said.

“I didn’t know much about olives or olive oil back then.” She said she received a lot of assistance in the early days from well-known Tasmanian olive oil producers Tony and Carol O’Neil from Cradle Coast Olives.

“They were great, and they really helped me a lot,” she said.

These days Ms Mann harvests olives from the grove for her oil label Glendale Olives.

There are eight different varieties of olives spread across the grove, including some table olives.

The property sits at about 200m above sea level, which gives it a unique microclimate.

“Because of the altitude here the olives tend to ripen a bit later because it’s a cooler climate,” Ms Mann said.

This slow ripening period gives Ms Mann to opportunity to harvest the olives over quite a few weeks.

Harvesting has started at Glendale and Ms Mann uses her on-site press to process many of the olives.

“I got it three years ago and it’s small, but it gives me the flexibility to be able to harvest and press the olives when I need to,” she said.

Her press can handle about 30kg to 50kg of olives at a time and Ms Mann said this enabled her to pick the fruit as needed and achieve the right flavour profile.

“It takes a bit of trial and error to start with to get the right result,” she said.

“Because every press is a different and the olive varieties also have different oil percentages well.”

Unlike many fruits, olives can handle relatively harsh winter conditions, including frosts, without much damage.

“They will tolerate frosts of -2C and down to -3C without any problems,” Ms Mann said.

“Once it gets to about -4C that will turn them a little bit brown, but they are still fine to be processed for oil.”

Ms Mann sells her oil to a number of customers including through specialist retail outlets across the state.

She generally aims to produce a mild-flavoured oil, which can be used in lots of different ways.

“Some people really like the more robust pepper style oils we can produce here in Tassie, but most of my customers prefer the milder flavours,” she said.

“Chefs normally like the milder oils because that way it doesn’t overpower the other flavours in a dish.”

Ms Mann is also involved with the industry at a state and national level as secretary of the Tasmanian Olive Council and a director on the Australian Olive Association.

Educating customers about the benefits of using locally produced olive oil is a big part of what the AOA does.

“We’ve put a lot of work into educating people and it is working,” Ms Mann said.

“People are more knowledgeable about olive oil and how to use it.

Temperature and light are two of the biggest things that impact on the quality of olive oil, so that’s something we try to teach people about.”

Ms Mann said TV cooking shows had also helped to increase the use of locally grown olive oil, but price was still a factor for many consumers.

“A lot of people still buy on price, but we are educating customers about the health benefits of really good quality Australian olive oil and that is working,” she said.

As well as harvesting olives from the grove, throughout the year she also runs a flock of sheep among the trees to help keep the grass down.

She said the grove was also great for lambing ewes and provided plenty of protection from the weather.

Ms Mann said Tasmania was an ideal place to grow olives and local producers did not suffer from the pest and disease issues some interstate growers faced.

While she says olive oil will go with just about any food including vanilla ice cream, her favourite combination is to have it with potatoes.

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