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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Olive Love

  Olives ripe for the picking
The Pendolino is thriving
My fourteen olive trees, somewhat neglected this past year or so,  have stayed smaller than I would like.  I can't decide whether it is because of lack of nutrients or because of gophers, deer, and turkeys eating away at their roots and branches.  Probably a bit of both.  They are resilient though, beautiful to look at and about to get a make over with my new landscaper arriving this week.  We are moving some trees to sunnier spots, creating a canopy with their sister trees by alternating them on two sides of a gravel walkway.   I started with 14 trees that were 5 years old.  Now, some are about 7 feet tall and look like strapping young infant olive trees, in the scheme of the life of an olive tree.   A native of Asia Minor, olives spread to Syria and the rest of the Mediterranean about 6,000 years ago.  There are records of olive trees living five thousand years....older than some of the two thousand year old Sequoia trees in Kings Canyon just south of Yosemite, or the Ginkos that grow in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. 

The Mediterranean area produces 99 percent of the world's olive oil.   In Greece, olive trees out number humans, 120 million trees to 10 million Greeks, with about 450,000 families participating in the production of olive farming.  On the isle of Crete, consumption is higher than anywhere else in the world at 30 kilos per year consumed vs about 15 kilos in other Mediterranean countries.  It is thought to be one of the healthies diets in the world.   
Pendolino's fresh from the tree
California is now in the olive oil business.   Olive trees were brought to California in the 1840's when the Franciscans established missions from San Diego to Sonoma.  The older trees from the missions are mostly found in Northern California.  

A few years ago, I stopped using butter on my toast in the morning.  I love butter, but I am more interested in eating healthier and consuming less animal products and more plant based fats, like the monounsaturated fats found in both olive oil and avocadoes.  So some mornings, like today, the drizzle of olive oil drips onto my warm toast and a few slices of avocado are smashed on top.  A dash of salt and pepper and I am happy until lunchtime.  The lighter fat makes me feel better and I don't have that heavy feeling in my belly.  I haven't eliminated cheese (god, no!), so I don't feel like I am missing out on flavor.  The bonus, I just love the flavor of good olive oil.  Buon Appetito!  Happy Cooking! 

Brine Time

 These beauties are brining for three months in a dark, cool place.  After that I can taste and brine more, or if they are finished brining, add them to an olive oil, herb, citrus rind, chili peppers, garlic, or any combination for eating right away.  They will keep in the fridge, but can turn a darker color when exposed to air. 
The small trees can barely be seen behind the lavender

The Rewards
A few things to make with olives and olive oil
Basic Salad Dressing with Olive Oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup White balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
Taste for balance

Basic Brine
1/2 cup salt to 1 liter water.

Delicious Cure
Olive oil, lemon or orange rind, bay leaves, citrus juice, white balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar and salt and pepper.
Heidi Swanson's blog and how to taste olive oil.
http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001213.html


2 comments:

barbara said...

Such beautiful photos! How many quarts (or were those larger than quarts?) of olives did you put up?

Tricia O'Brien said...

Thanks Barbara!
Those are 1 liter jars. Happy New Year! Happy Cooking!
Tricia