You may have noticed Lentara Grove absent from Harvest market for a few weeks. They were not on holiday, but working hard to harvest and process their olives. With the olive harvest over, chief oil maker Martin, had a little more time to explain the growing, harvesting and processing of their olives and the range of products they produce.
To start the olive growing process an ideal location is required. As Martin states “the key to growing good olives is site selection – ideally a site with low frost risk, low humidity, plenty of sunshine and access to water during drier periods. Our site was carefully selected as it had all of these characteristics in abundance”.
The growing of olives is a significant investment in time and resources. Olive trees will start to bear fruit in their first year. However, in these early years the volumes of fruit produced are low. Olive trees don’t reach their most productive years until 20 to 40 years of age. Olive trees can stay productive well into old age as in the right conditions an olives tree will live for a very long time. In the Mediterranean basin there are olive trees that are estimated to be up to 6,000 years old. Adding to the impressiveness of this age is that these olive trees are still producing fruit that is made into oil.
In Tasmania, olive trees start flowering in late November to early December. This is dependent on the variety of olive tree, as well as the weather conditions. These factors along with personal taste influence when harvest will occur. Harvesting of olives can start as early as April, yet in Tasmania the majority of olives are harvested from late May into June.
The harvest at Lentara Gove, uses what are affectionately known by the industry as ‘rattlers’ for the majority of their oil olives . A rattler is a battery powered shaker rakes that knock the olives off the tree onto nets, ready for collection and taking to the mill to be made into oil. At Lentara Grove their table olives are handpicked. This is a slow process. The lack of speed ensures a high level of quality control to ensure all their table olives are unflawed and at the ideal size and ripeness.
Once an olive is harvested, it needs to be processed as soon as possible. For table olives they are put into brine. For oil olives these are taken to the mill. Lentara Grove has all their own equipment to mill their own olives. Hence there is minimal delay between olives being picked and processed. This ensures the freshest possible oil for customers. Owning their own machinery enables Lentara Grove to also make oil for other groves in the state.
The mill process as Martin states is no longer “the romantic imagery of a donkey going around in circles to push a stone mill”. At Lentara Grove they use state of the art Italian equipment that ensure their olive oil is “fresh, vibrant and pure as it possibly can be”. The process involves the de-leafing and washing of the olives. Once cleaned, the olives are crushed in the onsite mill and the olive paste is kneaded by stainless steel arms to assist releasing the oil. The oil is then separated from the paste in a centrifuge prior to going into stainless steel tanks, ready for testing prior to bottling. The process is all undertaken without the use of chemicals or excessive heat, while avoiding as much waste as possible and recycling the pomace (the solid remains of olives after pressing for oil) as mulch.
From growing, harvesting and processing their olives, Lentara Grove offers a range of gourmet pantry products. These include their premium extra virgin olive oils, some infused with chilli, truffle and other delicious ingredients, as well as table olives, olive leaf tea, tapenade and dukkah. All of these are available every Saturday at their Harvest market stall and have a devoted customer following.
Their range now includes luxe skincare products made from their olive oil. These include hand and body washes and lotions, bath salts and oils, and hair care products. Martin explains the skincare range arose ‘due to the discovery that not only is extra virgin olive oil brilliant for your health on the inside, it is also equally as beneficial for you on the outside. ‘ The skincare range is used exclusively at the Stillwater Seven boutique apartments.
The care and attention Lentara Grove put into their olives and products is evident in their regular winning of awards. A few examples of their awards include Silver (Frantoio Premium Reserve, Frantoio, Corregiola) 2016 – Australian Olive Association, Silver (Oil of Provenance – Frantoio Premium Reserve) 2016 – Royal Adelaide Olive Show, and Gold (Corregiola single variety) 2013 – Australian Olive Association.
For more information visit Martin at the Lentara Grove Harvest stall every Saturday
Alternatively, go online to https://www.lentara.com.au or visit their Facebook page or Instagram account.