If you’ve ever had the pleasure of spending some time in the twin hamlets of Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West in the Swartland, you’ll know that the olive culture in this verdant little valley is alive and kicking. There are very few other places in South Africa where you can enjoy such an amazing variety of olive products right in the midst of the singular terroir that produced it. But it goes deeper than that – the Riebeek Valley olive culture starts with the people.
“Most households in and around our two towns have an olive tree or two, or know someone who will allow them to pick a few bushels of olives each year,” explains Derek van der Riet, co-owner and proprietor of the Olive Boutique in Riebeek Kasteel. “Many families brine and flavour their olives by hand, or bring them to us to have them milled for olive oil” dishing them up proudly and even labelling them with their own personalised brands.
Affectionately referred to as ‘the village mill’ by Riebeek locals, the Olive Boutique prides itself on assisting olive growers of all shapes and sizes to extract extra virgin oil that Derek and his long-time partner Susan Aird racks and filters for everyone from local and regional olive enthusiasts and hobbyists, to emerging commercial olive farmers. Their services extend to support and advice in terms of grove planting and management, harvesting guidance, olive pressing, oil tasting and blending, as well as bottling and marketing.
“People bring us their olives in all sorts of quantities,” says Susan. “A local artist may drop off 3,5 kg of olives in a paper bag, while commercial farms may come around with as much as a tonne per day in season. Our clients can always rest assured that the olives they dropped off will end up in their oil. After all, when you put in the time and effort to look after your trees and harvest at the right time, you want to reap the rewards of your labour. As a flexible, small community mill, we are able to give our clients this assurance.”
DID YOU KNOW? Since olive oil comes from the flesh of the olive, instead of a nut or a seed as most other oils do, it is technically a fruit juice!
Happily for the droves of visitors that descend on the picturesque Riebeek Valley throughout the year, the Olive Boutique is also open to the public as a proudly South African olive oil-, olive- and vinegar tasting bar, from 09:00 – 16:00 Monday to Friday, and between 10:00 – 13:30 on Saturdays and Sundays.
While guests are more than welcome to pop in for a quick visit, or to pick up a jar of olives or two, Derek and Susan also host more in-depth tastings, workshops and tours that are tailored to immerse visitors in the full olive oil experience.
“Our operating philosophy is to facilitate the ongoing growth of independent artisanal producers and garagiste blenders within the olive industry in the Swartland region,” explains Derek. “We take great pride in showcasing the diversity of our terroir, the creativity of our communities, as well as our fascinating agricultural heritage. All of this is woven into 360-degree tasting experiences that go beyond the dipping of a piece of bread in a few different oils. When our guests leave here, we want them to have a deeper understanding and keen appreciation of this liquid gold.”
Focussed tastings may be booked for larger groups, with prior arrangement. Simply call or email ahead to secure a suitable time slot. While you’re at it, you may also want to check out the delectable range of olive oils, table olives, olive pastes, balsamic vinegars, body care products and gift boxes available for purchase on their online store.
3 TOP TIPS FOR HARVESTING & MILLING OLIVES FROM THE OLIVE BOUTIQUE TEAM
- Harvest at 70% ripeness. You want to strike a balance between 70% ripe olives, and 30% green olives. If you harvest when all the olives are ripe, you will get more oil, but it will have a limited life span and won’t have all the health benefits of an oil that combines green and ripe olives. This is because the health benefits of olive oil lies in the polyphenols and antioxidants that are strongest in green fruit. These same compounds protect the oil to keep it intact. This is why it is best to sacrifice yield for quality by harvesting at 70% ripeness.
- Olives must be milled within 24 hours. Extra virgin olive oil has be pressed within 24 hours of the olives being picked. Otherwise the fruits starts deteriorating – it becomes rancid or starts to rot and that quickly comes through on the taste. It also starts to generate more fatty peroxides, which causes the oil to lose extra-virginity status. NB! Communicate with your miller to ensure that they will have time to slot in your olives on the day that you plan to harvest.
- Be ready to wait for 3 weeks. Olives differ from one batch to the next, and the separation process of the oil and water may take longer for one than the other. When you drop off your olives be prepared to allow your miller the time to provide you with the best possible product in the end.
QUICK LINKS >> Website: www.olive-boutique.co.za | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Telephone Number: (022) 448 1368