04 Oct

Australian Olive oil fears fruitless

By Leslie White,

FEARS growers may have had to rip out a widely planted variety of olives due to poor oil yields appear to have subsided. In 2000, olive growers were worried the manzanillo variety would disappoint growers who had planted it as an oil producer.

However, latest figures indicate the mass removal of the variety never occurred as growers planted new varieties, used the manzanillo for table olives and learned how to properly harvest oil from the olive.

Australian Olive Association president Paul Miller said there had been genuine concern in the then-tiny industry at the time.

“It does give oil but at a low percentage,” Mr Miller said.

“Equally it makes excellent table olives.”

Some growers may also have chosen to keep the variety as it was a good pollinator for other varieties, he added.

Andrew Burgess, general manager for olive nursery and technical advice company Modern Olives, said the variety was traditionally used for table olives in Spain.

It could be difficult to process for oil because of its high moisture content, he said.

“Some of the small to medium growers were having it processed by people without much experience (in the early days of the Australian olive industry) and got a low oil content,” Mr Burgess said.

“If you were planting specifically for oil, that wouldn’t be one of your major varieties.”

However, Mr Burgess said experience had shown the variety produced an extremely high-quality aromatic oil.

The oil had fruity qualities and was also ideal for blending with other oil varieties, he said.

Mr Burgess said methods of coping with the high moisture content included pausing irrigation close to harvest and using slightly different equipment on the cold press so the olive was not crushed so fine.

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