22 Oct

Family traditions and olive milling

By PJ Bremier,

“I’ve got 38 of the most wonderful olive trees and they produce tremendously,” Jim Simon says gleefully as he looks forward to his annual olive-pressing party in November.

That’s when Simon, owner of the Building Supply Center in Point Reyes Station, and his wife, Linda, spread out a festive Tuscan feast and turn up the Italian music in their sunny Nicasio olive grove entertaining the six to 10 neighbors who have come over to help pick olives.

The topmost olives are picked the day before “so no one falls off the ladder after drinking wine” but Simon leaves the lower fruit for the guests. “We pick and pick and pick until we’re tired of picking – about five or six hours – and then we eat some more.”

He takes his harvest to McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma where his olives are pressed with the olives of other small growers in the McEvoy’s annual Community Milling Day. He’ll return days later for his proportionate share of olive oil.

Last year, Simon’s picking party shared his 7 gallons of oil, which were bottled and labeled “Linda’s Olives of the Redwoods.”

Linda Simon unknowingly inspired the olive grove 12 years ago as she and her husband were leaving the Nicasio ranch of their friends, Chuck and Leslie Gompertz. She idly commented on the beauty of the trunks of their 120 olive trees.

That planted a seed in Jim Simon’s mind, He and their sons, James and Cory, now 28 and 25 respectively, secretly planted an olive grove of 38 trees, selected at McEvoy Nursery, for her. On Christmas morning, the two boys proudly walked their mother out to the new grove and said, “Merry Christmas!”

Jim Simon laughs when he recalls her reaction. “She didn’t know what they were. When we told her, she asked ‘What are we going to do with them? All I said was I liked the way they looked.'”

She loves them now, he says, “as long as I prune, feed and water them.” Although he admits he doesn’t have to do much to them and they still produce more than the Gompertz’s.

“They don’t talk to me during olive season because my olives do better than theirs,” he chuckles.

“That’s true,” Chuck Gompertz says. “He does something in the middle of the night but nobody knows. We’re all insanely jealous.”

Gompertz takes his home-pressed oil to Grace Cathedral where it’s blessed before he donates it to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ross for sacramental uses.

Another Nicasio family donates their olive oil to the Gilead House in Novato and, this year, Simon offered a picking party invitation as an auction item for the Nicasio Volunteer Firemen’s fundraiser. “Somebody paid $400 to come over and pick olives,” he says in mock disbelief.

McEvoy Ranch Community Milling Days takes place from 9 and 9:45 a.m. Nov. 23 and Dec. 7. The cost is $1 a pound of fruit. Call Samantha Dorsey at 707-769-4123 for details.

A mission of olives
Olives have enjoyed a long working history in the establishment of California beginning in 1795 when they were first planted at Mission San Diego del Alcala and later established in the other 20 missions that spread across the state.

Marin residents are invited to a talk and olive-curing demonstration Oct. 19 in Sonoma given by the state-wide Mission Olive Preservation, Restoration and Education Project. Guest speakers will trace the history of the Mission olive, offer tips on planting and growing the trees, and show how to make the fruit palatable.

“You’ll actually be able to go home and cure olives when you leave,” promises MOPREP president Ron Chapman. “We give you all the secrets.”

For the last 10 years, MOPREP has been actively collaborating with Californians and California missions to honor the Mission olive. Volunteers coordinate horticultural care, replanting, and olive harvests at the missions and special sites.

“We want to preserve these heritage trees and get them back into olive oil production,” Chapman says. Last year, his group donated two young trees to Mission San Rafael propagated from the oldest Mission olive grove still in existence at Mission La Purisima in Lompoc.

Like the Mission fig and the Mission grape, the Mission olive was integral to mission life for both religious and secular purposes. Every part of the tree was used: the fruit for food; the oil for sacraments, salves, lighting, spinning and machine works; the pumice for soap and the limbs for wood. Now, with MOPREP, some missions are harvesting and selling their oil for income.

[Source] Click here

One Response to “Family traditions and olive milling”

  1. Cornelicatty Says:

    Olive oil is very essential for hair growth, skin glow etc. And its milling is a family tradition. It has so much of importance.

Leave a Reply