Outstanding Olives

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Before the holidays we had an olive brining workshop, reminding us that olive season is ending soon. These little fruits have a lot to offer so be sure to harvest them while you can!

Olives and the Olea europea tree have significance in many cultures and religions. Mythology teaches that the goddess Athena gifted an olive tree to the Greeks, planting the first olive tree on the Acropolis. The oil is often used as holy oil for anointing and blessing bishops, kings, winning athletes, the dead, and for other ceremonial purposes.

Olives are considered a drupe or stone fruit and are one of the most largely produced fruits in the world. The olive tree – originating in Asia Minor, spreading to Mediterranean regions, and then even farther with Roman expansion – is one of the oldest cultivated trees, thrives in rocky soil and lives for hundreds of years. The difference in color of the olive is based on the level of ripeness when harvested – green olives are less ripe, whereas black olives have reached peak ripeness – as well as how long they are cured or soaked in brine. California produces 95% of the United States’ olives, growing mainly the Manzanillo and Sevillano varieties. Globally, Spain is the largest producer, followed by Italy, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia. Of the olives grown in the Mediterranean, 90% are used for olive oil.


Save those seeds!

You have probably heard the term "seed-saving" before. It is what is sounds like- the process of extracting seeds from something that you've grown and saving them to be used to plant again. What you might not know is how important its history is, and how it can help your garden and your community's future!

Seed-saving is practiced throughout the world, and has been since plant cultivation first began. For most of human's agricultural history, saving seeds was the only way one could plant crops for the next growing season. Now, in the modern age we have access to a variety of seeds from all over the world. This can include special varieties farmers have perfected over the years, but it also includes specific crops that are owned and patented by corporations (names like Monsato and DuPont may ring a bell). The effect of this is that anyone using these seeds must pay a premium price for them- AND it is illegal to save the seeds of these crops to be used, which means that farmers are often obligated through contracts to keep paying over and over for the use of these crops.


Preserving without Heat

I have only been growing my own vegetables and preserving them for a few years now. The first thing I thought of was heat canning, and have spent a number of hours getting water to boil. This was not entirely satisfactory to me, however, because it just didn't seem very efficient. Heat intensive processes are inefficient at small scale, such as my kitchen! So this year I ditched the water canning and decided to try other methods.

I recommend the book Keeping Food Fresh and basically followed the guidelines there for drying, lacto fermenting and preserving in olive oil.

While you can't taste the results, here's what they look like.

These are dried veggies and I dried them with the sun. Great way to keep nutrient quality intact and very light weight for storage and transportation. Shown are onions, tomatoes, pears and peppers.

Lacto fermentation is a fascinating process. All you need is salt and chlorine free water. Here are examples of pickles, a vegetable medley including beets, and shredded zucchini.

Olive oil is a more expensive preservative. But the oil isn't lost, just borrowed while preserving and becoming a flavored oil when the vegetables are consumed. Many vegetables are sauteed briefly in vinegar before storage in oil. Shown are sweet pepper, tomatoes and a vegetable medley including carrots. Onions and garlic and herbs are often mixed into these.


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