Olive oil is like wine in that its properties rely on the soil, the weather, the farmer’s skills in growing healthy blemish free olives and the oil maker’s skill in pressing and blending the olives.
Some olives such as the Frantoio variety are small oval olives but are rich in oils. 1000kgs of Frantoio will yield 170 litres of oil while the larger, elliptical variety , Mission yield 11% to 15% oil depending on their ripeness. Different varieties, Frantoio, Leccino, Mission, Coratina and others each bring unique properties to the final product. It is very important that sanitary conditions are adhered to in the processing of the oil so that the positive attributes of the oil are maximised and the defects are minimised.
In South Africa most producers make extra virgin olive oil which is pressed according to strict rules ensuring that the end product is pure, has a fruity full bodied taste which is pleasing to the pallet. Oils that bear the SA Olive growers sticker show that the producer has submitted the oil to a panel for tasting and chemical analysis and customers are assured that they are buying good quality oil. Many second and third grade oils from Mediterranean countries are dumped on the unsuspecting South African consumer, the oil tastes bad and the healthy properties of this oil are non existent.
At Riverbend farm on the banks of the Breede River midway between Worcester and Robertson, Frantoio, Leccino and Mission olives are grown for oil. Harvesting starts in April and finishes in June. Single varietal oils are produced using two Oliomio presses. The oils are filtered and stored in stainless steel tanks. Once processing has stopped the farmer blends the oils to make a delicious award winning oil.
Olive oils can be used for salads, for cooking and as additives to any meal to enhance the flavours. Some people like very bitter strong olive oil on their salads while some people prefer softer less aggressive tastes. Whatever one’s taste there will be a South African extra virgin olive oil in the shops to suit the discerning consumer.