HARVESTING AND PROCESSING OLIVES

HARVESTING AND PROCESSING OLIVES

Olives are the earliest crop known to be cultivated by humans, having been grown and harvested for at least six thousand years.

In local gardens, their familiar grey-green foliage lends an immediate air of classical antiquity. But pressing and curing olives at home has become something of the past. For the adventurous foodie, though with access to productive trees, it can be a richly rewarding pastime.

You may already have a fruiting olive tree or two in your yard and wondered about how to bring it into production. Olive trees are not that picky—they’re easy to grow. If you don’t know what variety your tree is, some trial and error with harvesting and curing might be in order. Olive trees can be purchased in a wide range of sizes and prices and planted year-round.

Unlike many other fruits, the different colours that olives come in are due to the ripeness of the fruit, not the variety. Harvest time will depend on the end use and cultivar. E.g. for an intense oil, you will harvest when the olive is still green, but for a delicate oil, it must be black but not overly ripe. For curing one can use either black or green, but not half-ripe.

For edibility, olives are processed, or “cured,” to remove most of the oleuropein, which is found in the leaves and fruit of the tree. Oleuropein is the main antioxidant in olives, but extremely bitter. Curing neutralizes this compound in different ways, each resulting in particular tastes and textures. The easiest and quickest way to cure olives at home is with water. In this method, the freshly picked olives are sliced or cracked to expose the interior of the fruit, they are immersed in water, which is changed once a day for five to eight days and then soaked in finishing brine with vinegar. You can even add flavours of your liking such as rosemary, chillies or garlic.

Brine curing is also a secure method where the olives are soaked in a water solution and pickling salt over several months. A fermentation process takes place during brining, which alters the flavour profile in distinctive ways. Dry salting is another simple option, resulting in a shrivelled olive that is slightly bitter and quite salty. Lye curing is perhaps the last frontier for home olive processing, but it needn’t be intimidating. Following some necessary precautions, lye will wholly and quickly neutralize the oleuropein in the olives, leaving a de-bittered olive with crunchy texture.

In addition to curing for eating or cooking, olives can be processed at home for their precious oil. Historically, the process relied on large stone grinding wheels drawn by livestock. Expensive grinders and oil presses may be purchased, but with a streak of “maker” inventiveness and experiments of others posted on YouTube as a guide, the necessary equipment can be rummaged or cobbled together for much less depending on the scale of the operation.

Whether the final product is olives eaten out of hand or drizzled from golden bottles of silky oil, harvesting and processing olives at home is a nutritional, gratifying reconnection with a deep agricultural and culinary history.

LOCAL REALLY IS LEKKER- WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES.

LOCAL REALLY IS LEKKER- WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES.

The Coronavirus outbreak has not only affected local businesses but has taken a huge knock-on in South Africa’s economy. It is important that at this time we try our best to not only support our local businesses and productions but to understand the importance of doing it.

When entrepreneurs and independent businesses are supported, they contribute to a strong supply chain, create more employment opportunities, and help stimulate the South African economy.

By supporting local entrepreneurs and businesses a consumer contributes to the resilient supply chain of South Africa, creating more employment opportunities and in turn naturally stimulating the economy. Buying South African products extends further than a mere convenience for consumers, as buying from these businesses and engaging in these services aid in addressing a multifaceted platform of local problems. Additionally, local business owners tend to support other local companies, from both a personal and business perspective. For example, preference will be given to local service providers when jobs need to be outsourced and this offers growth opportunities to other entrepreneurs.

Local businesses that are growing, supporting each other, and reinvesting their money locally, are contributing to the success of their communities. When the community thrives, more jobs are created, wages and benefits can improve, and people are attracted to live and work in the area. This contributes to reducing poverty and improving the quality of life of the local residents.

The main arguments in support of local manufacturing are that it creates connections within communities, provides jobs, and enables ongoing conversation in perfecting a product. Local manufacturing is never going to be the cheapest option, but the proximity between producer and buyer can help form great working relationships. These relationships are essential in getting a product just right. Local production also means lower costs and better-quality control as the product isn’t traveling far, so there should be less chance of damage and any issues can be resolved quickly.

Local manufacturing means more jobs can be created in the community. We live in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Unemployment is the reason we have high crime rates, but instead of creating jobs, most businesses choose to automate, compounding the problem.

SMMEs contribute almost 40 percent of South Africa’s GDP and employ around 60 percent of the workforce. The National Development Plan predicts that 90 percent of all new jobs will be within an SMME by 2030. The government can clearly see the importance of supporting small and local businesses, and we stand firmly behind them.

Another benefit of local produce is that there is a distinct move away from mass-produced foods and the chemicals and additives that they bring with them, and growing demand for organic, pesticide-free foods. Fresh eggs, dairy, and vegetables are freely available in most South African cities, locally grown on nearby smallholdings – and they’re delicious.

“Think globally, act locally.”

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