by Helen Martin
After a disappointing production season in 2017, this season’s long summer has resulted in a bumper harvest for many olive growers. Susan Wilson’s crop was so poor last year she left the olives on the 95 trees she usually harvests for her extra virgin oil Magic Olives. Thanks to a long summer, this year her trees were groaning with olives, presenting a big challenge to the 20-odd helpers who gathered at her South Head property in May to pick and sort what turned out to be 850 kilos of top quality fruit. For their contribution helpers were given a superb lunch and will later each receive a bottle of Magic Olives.
Susan credits the quality of her olives with the fact that they are spray free and have perfect growing conditions in her sandy soil. Some are picked by hand, a job, which is slow and laborious but has the advantage of producing unbruised fruit. A battery-powered rake is also used, and while this tends to bruise the fruit, it is much quicker and contributes greatly to the size of the harvest. This year Susan worked smarter, she says, by having much larger drop cloths and by providing an extra battery to keep the rake going.
After the fruit has been cold pressed at Salumeria Olives in Wellsford, Susan bottles, caps and labels the oil with labels of her own design in a designated shed on her property. The next stage is to find buyers. With the market swamped by cheap, inferior olive oil shipped in from overseas in great quantities, producing and bottling on a small scale is more a labour of love than an economic proposition, but for now Susan is up for the challenge.