In April / May we harvest olives in the Southern Hemisphere!

When I designed my Mediterranean style garden 20 years ago I enthusiastically planted 3 olive trees. They do look beautiful and with the pencil cypresses, citrus trees and rosemary they do frame my vegetable and herb garden perfectly!

Olive trees are slow growers and only really start productively yielding fruit after about 4 years. When I eventually moved into my Cape house 14 years ago I started harvesting a few kilograms of fruit and about 8 years ago the 3 trees gave me a bumper crop of 25kg.

Pickle or Sun Dry olives?

Over the years I have pickled and dried the olives. Recently there have been poor crops and some years there has been no fruit. If there are harsh winds when the trees are in blossom this happens. As they have no commercial value to me, I am quite relieved as the processing of olives is a tedious job. Since I have done my own processing I have utmost respect for that jar of olives in the supermarket. Recently I have offered my crop to any friends who are happy to harvest them. This year, during Covid19 lockdown this option did not exist, so we had to harvest ourselves. Luckily only one tree had one tree that bore fruit and we yielded 3kgs.

On the left are the prune-like dried olives. These can also be tossed in olive oil and in herbs and served as cocktail snacks.

In previous years I have chose to rather dry the olives. This process is less tedious. The ripe olives are placed in nylon bags (knee high hose are perfect for this, so when you see me pop a few packs into my trolley they are not for my feet!) with coarse salt. They are hung under roof for about 3 weeks. All that is required is that you give them a light ‘massage’ every 5 days to redistribute the salt. After 3 weeks they are rinsed, laid onto trays in the sun to air dry and then they are ready to eat. They have the texture of dried prunes and are delicious as snacks with a drink. I vacuum pack them and still have a stash in the pantry, so this year I decided to pickle the batch.

There are various methods of pickling or brining olives.

The one where you brine them directly takes ages (months!) before they are ready to consume.

The method that I find works well requires soaking the olives in cold water, which is changed daily for about 3 weeks….. easy when you have time at home during lockdown!

Then the olives are finally rinsed and placed in jars with brine and herbs and flavourings

I chose a variety of flavourings:

  • Lemon zest with lemon thyme and pink peppercorns
  • Orange zest with rosemary
  • Thyme and chilli
  • Rosemary and chilli
  • Lemon zest and lemon verbena

The brine is an easy mixture of water, red wine vinegar and salt

The olives then need to stand for 6 to 8 weeks before they are ready to enjoy

For the full recipe: here