The main road north from Adelaide takes you past Virginia, where much of the state's vegetables are grown and further on still, around the Two Wells area, are ever-increasing numbers of olive groves. So it was with great delight that I saw advertised in the Rare Fruit Society newsletter, a field trip to one of the oldest of these olive groves. Nick and his family, originally from Cyprus and Greece, have been running Verdale Olive Estate since the 1970's; 20 acres and 1500 olive trees, producing about 30 tonnes of olives a year. Together with some other growers they grow 3 main varieties of olives, mostly for eating but also some oil. They are kalamata, manzanillo and liguria. I like the liguria or wild olives best, like those that grow wild on the hillsides around Adelaide.
My main interest was to see how they preserve the olives and if they use any horrid chemicals, there or in the growing of the trees. Why it is that I am always the one asking these curly questions to innocent people who have so generously given their time for free, worries me not in the least and I have some very pleasant things to report about Verdale and especially about Nick's own growing and processing methods.
A few years ago Nick was having problems with salt in the soil on his farm and after a soil test, found his soil was in a bad state. He decided the only thing to do was to go organic and he is very pleased with the results, if not with the certification process, but that's another story. Nick himself prefaced his answers by saying he is on the whole not into organics and all that kind of stuff, so it is inspiring to think he has found a natural way forward through the maze of chemical solutions on offer.
If, like me, you imagine a big enterprise like this being full of shiny stainless steel and people in white coats then, like me you would have been surprised and oh so happy to see hundreds of pickle barrels outside in yards here, there and everywhere, with the chooks scratching around them, and a pallet of ordinary salt ready to be used in the next batch. Of course there are shiny machines for pitting and sorting and so on but then out they go into the barrels in a solution of 3% salt for a month. And that is when the lacto-fermentation starts to take place....( like Claudia was telling us about.). See the white stuff in the photo below.....
Nick processes the olives from all the farms he sources the olives from and every barrel is labelled as such so the origins of every olive is known from start to finish. Nick was so generous and gave us cuttings and fruit from his favourite pomegranate trees, as well as directing us into his on-site cafe and giving us tastings of the olives, dips, oils and other condiments they make there. The coffee I must say was excellent, the pizzas made in the wood oven delicious and the olives were really tasty. Those of us who stayed to the end were lucky enough to receive some vegetables from the garden, some semi-dried olives and a flagon of oil which was from olives picked and pressed yesterday, at a very good price. You should see the colour and oh the aroma is heavenly!
The cafe is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm.
Verdale Olive Estate, 27 Bailey Road East, Two Wells. Although it is right near Pt. Wakefield Rd, you can't enter Bailey Road from there and must take another route.
Out the back Nick has this little pineapple growing.... aren't they the weirdest things, growing up on a spike like that? And he also had a piece of sugarcane growing too.
The dogs were gorgeous and there were tiny puppies too...
Thanks so much Nick.