Written by Chloe Proud, Mathew McNamara, Michael Cole
Jim and Lisa at Longridge Olives in Netherton, South Australia have been producing for 16 years. Their 100 acre property of rolling hills is defined by a Mediterranean climate, sandy soil with high salinity and a rainfall of 450ml/year on average. They believe this to be the ideal conditions for growing this hardy fruit tree as it mimics almost exactly the conditions in which these plants originated- sitting at 35 degrees south of the equator where the Mediterranean is 35 degrees North.
There are over 6 different species planted on their Super High Density grove, the largest of which in Australia. Most of these have been selected due to the appropriateness for the environmental conditions and for this style of planting, with the intent of yielding higher volumes of quality fruit from smaller trees – thus facilitating easier harvest. These include: Barnea, Picqual, Frantoya, Koreniki, Arbequina and Arbosana.
One of the key aspects of sustainably farming their property is accessing the underground water aquifers that run naturally from higher altitude areas down to the coast. This allows, through the process of boring, access to freshwater destined to mix with salt water in the ocean before it becomes so. It also helps regulate rising salinity levels in the earth and keeps the top soil neutralised.
We also visited Tatiara Olive processing, which Lisa and Jim own and operate out of, to watch the systems with which they take a large quantity of olives from a collective of growers and extract oil.
The fruit is first crushed, at varying rates depending on the ripeness of the harvest and a pectin-breaking enzyme is added to help break down the cell walls in order to extract more fruit. At this stage talc can be utilised to absorb any excess water to moderate consistency. The paste is then warmed and double filtered through centrefusion.
One of the most exciting parts of our visit was getting to try a number of oils extracted from different species at different times. We were amazed at how much the oils varied, which largely reinforced discussions we had with Lisa and Jim pertaining to the importance of oil blends for a consistent, versatile product.
Lisa and Jim also work intensively on the monitoring of oil quality in any olive oil sold in Australia, keeping standards of Australian produced olive oil as high as they can be and stopping inferior, competitively cheaper imported oils dominating sales. We were excited to discuss between us how we could utilise the flavour and texture subtleties of the different olives at a more advanced level in the restaurant sphere- capturing, enhancing and customising flavours and combinations to showcase such an elegant and important culinary product.
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