You may have noticed in previous columns that we always have a bottle of Mother’s Garden Extra Virgin Olive Oil to hand, and rarely make a dish without a good glug of it! Over the last few years we have got to know the English couple who care for this really special piece of Catalonian earth in the Priorat mountains, and have been privileged to join them for harvests.
Catalonia itself feels like a home-from-home in many ways. Beautiful scenery, amazing artistic culture, great food and a powerful spirit of independence: remind you of anywhere?
The character of the olives is different each year and is dictated by the weather; hotter summers mean smaller olives which have a more concentrated flavour. The trees at Mother’s Garden are around 100 years old, which is sort of middle-aged for olive trees. They are arbequina olives, which produce a juice low in acidity and rich in nutrients. On the farm they are surrounded by grape vines, citrus fruits and almond trees, creating a biologically diverse haven for plant and animal life.
In order to harvest the olives, nets are cast under the trees, which are then shaken (or tickled, as we like to say!) Those harvested at Mother’s Garden are taken to a local cooperative mill and pressed within 24hrs. It’s a simple process on a domestic rather than an industrial scale, which demonstrates the great respect the Catalonians have for this most precious crop.
The oil is then stored in sealed stainless-steel vats, with a small quantity being bottled every month. This ensures each individual bottle is as fresh as possible. As Martin of Mother’s Garden explains: “The flavour and goodness diminishes as an olive oil ages, and this dulling of its vitality is accelerated by light and warmth. The shorter the time in a bottle (never clear glass) and on a shelf in a store the better.”
Just like wine, olive oil is the product of its terroir (the unique combination of soil, geology, climate and the traditions of the local people). We think of our Mother’s Garden Extra Virgin Olive Oil as olive juice and love using it in very simple ways so that it can be appreciated in all its goodness. See below for a few ideas…
Getting The Most Out Of Your Olive Oil
Greens – grab a handful of the freshest seasonal greens you can find. Think dark, chalky kale, cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli… Simply steam, season with salt and pepper and dress with plenty of olive oil.
Frozen Custard – our favourite ice cream (which is made in Portreath) Frozen Custard Co.’s Vanilla, is so good doused with olive oil. Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself, you won’t regret it!