For years I have wanted to grow a row of lush bountiful olive trees along a fence line. I love the natural abundance of olive trees, and for some reason the crop always seems to come as a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t until we moved into our current home 3 years ago that my wish came true. Our backyard was completely barren, a virtual desert (the perfect place for olives), and it had an exposed side wall just begging for some sort of thick screening plant. The tiny olive trees went in. Within 6 months we had our first harvest which was a bit of a fluke. The second summer we had no fruit, and this year after building a much sturdier wall behind the trees to buffer the strong winds, the trees are happy (still not that big) and we have had a bumper crop. My 4 year old and I picked olives from two trees yesterday, and I salted most of them late last night. We have about 7 kilos of them in jars now, and I’ve given away some from the other trees today.
This morning as I walked up a nearby street I saw 3 massive trees covered in olives with shrivelled fruit lying all over the ground. I forage all the time in other peoples yards for lemons. and last year with no olives of our own, I foraged for the first time for olives from a tree which overhung a friend’s driveway. There are olive trees everywhere, and not everyone can be bothered to harvest and pickle them.
I spent a year living in a small village in Israel when I was younger, and the main street of the village was lined with olive trees. There was a special date at the end of the summer when truckloads of Arab-Israeli women would come into the village, and strip all of the trees of their olives. Today I heard a story about a group of Italian Nonnas who have essentially claimed an olive tree each in a public space in Fremantle. No-one else is allowed to touch the trees. They have a kind of unwritten ownership over the trees produce, which is really interesting I think. Foraging is such a fun and satisfying way of getting food. I am the lemon foraging queen. Until our 2 lemon trees can fully supply our needs, I grab lemons whenever I see them, much to the embarrassment of my partner!
Pickling olives is a simple but kind of time consuming task. The olives are soaked all day in filtered water to clean them, then scored with 3 small slits into each olive before completely submerging them in a 10% brine solution for as long as it takes for the intense bitterness of the fruit to be gone. At this point they can either be stored in a brine/vinegar mix or oil, with garlic, lemon, herbs, chilli etc added for extra intensity of flavour. They are so simple to preserve and as with most things, taste a million times better than the store bought version. I love a bountiful harvest. It seems like such a gift from my beautiful olive trees. My peace trees.