Monday, September 19, 2016

September's Olive Harvest

The recent olive harvest event at sage garden ecovillas was a success on many fronts.  I learned a lot from it, and really enjoyed the chance to meet and work shoulder-to-shoulder with some local gardeners and urban farmers.  I think everyone had a good time, and hopefully took away a little deeper appreciation and feeling of connection with the olive trees and the ancient practices of harvesting and preparing olives.

There are some things I think we did well, that I'd like to do again next time, and some things I'd like to do different.

Things that went well:
1) I really like the basic idea of harvesting and curing olives as a group activity.  Of course, this idea isn't new - it's a long-standing tradition in some families and cultures.  And maybe it's something you have to experience firsthand to appreciate.
2) The popup canopy and card table worked well as a gathering point, a place for sign-in sheets and name tags, and a place to taste finished olives.
3) The comination sign-in sheet and waiver was a paper-saver.
4) Doing the processing (rinsing, cutting, pitting, curing) inside where it was cool was a good idea.
5) Food grade buckets worked well for processing.
6) The basic format worked well, starting with personal introductions and explanations, then start harvesting, then start processing, then tasting, and finally the sharing circle.
7) Finishing the olives with malt vinegar was a clear win.

Things to try or do different next time:
1) Use shoulder straps to hold the buckets while picking (thanks for that idea, Charles).
2) Leave the small olives on the tree (thanks for that suggestion, PJ).
3) Set up a number of finishing stations before the event.
4) Get more Westmark olive pitters.  The Westmark was the universal favorite, hands down.  And don't bother trying to use the Press2Pit cherry pitter to pit olives.
5) I learned that some olive afficionados really like eating their olives with the pit in (thanks, Jacqueline).

6) Abe suggested several different flavorings, including Mediterranean style, using lemon juice and jalapenos.  I did a little research, and I have some of the olives we picked finishing Mediterranean style right now.  I'm also experimenting with just substituting lemon juice in place of vinegar in the finishing solution, and using crushed red pepper.
7) Take more pictures next time.

Bottom line, this olive harvest event was a fun, enriching experience, for me, and I appreciate everyone who participated.