Jan 062015
Darrien Ramsey of Terra Dolce Farms and Robert Mullinax of Zebina Whistle-Stop Farms discussing olive  tree pruning

Darrien Ramsey of Terra Dolce Farms and Robert Mullinax of Zebina Whistle-Stop Farms discussing olive tree pruning

A few weeks ago I was in Savannah hanging out with my husband, Mr. Olive Crazy, and visiting friends. Mr. Olive Crazy was dying to try out Cha Bella an innovative restaurant featuring local, fresh ingredients harvested and hunted by real people – no Sysco trucks rolling up here.

We had a great time chatting with the staff, who are also the owners. Of course we chatted about local olive oil too. They confessed that as much as they would love to offer Georgia olive oils on their menu the prices per bottle are too high for them to feature local evoo on Cha Bella dishes AND keep their menu prices down. I get it.

I almost forgot – the extra cool thing about Cha Bella is it’s location. It’s in the part of Savannah that housed the Trustees’ Garden where olives were grown with success in the 1700s. For more on the Trustees’ Garden and olives in Georgia see my earlier article about this subject “Thomas Jefferson Was Olive Crazy Too.”

Before leaving Savannah I met with my friend, Carol Chambers. Carol is a blueberry farmer and landscaping magician. We discussed using olives in some of her landscaping projects. I suggested trying out some of the sterile varieties since olives stain pavement and get tracked in the house staining rugs and floors too. After giving my advice we went for a short trip through her verdant backyard where I stepped in dog poo – tracking olives, tracking poo which is worse? Definitely the poo.

After all that fun I travelled due west to Lyons Georgia where I hoped to pop in on my friends at Terra Dolce Farms. As I turned into the Terra Dolce entrance I saw one of the owners, Darrien Ramsey, driving out. It was lunch time so I communed with the locals over fried chicken at Chatters Restaurant. Chatters is a southern-eatin’ delight and even though we have some great southern cooking places in my town of Wrens I just love Chatters.

Once lunch was over I headed back over to Terra Dolce and met up with Darrien and the second owner of this three-man operation, Tommie Williams. We had a great visit talking about harvesting, weather, tree growth, pruning, successful varieties, milling, production, and much more. It was finally time to go. I wrote a check and walked out the door with half a case of Terra Dolce’s latest extra virgin olive oil.

If you want to try the award-winning Terra Dolce Farms extra virgin olive oil you have two options: You can buy it directly from the farm at the Terra Dolce link provided above or you can stop in to Strippaggio located in Atlanta Georgia in the Emory Pointe Center across from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Clifton Drive.

Back here in Wrens Georgia at the Olive Crazy headquarters, Terra Dolce Farms evoo has dressed many a vegetable, meat and fish dish. It is such a family hit that soon I’ll need more.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Oct 192014
Dirty martini and kalamata bread at Sheehan's Pub in Augusta, GA

Dirty martini and Kalamata olive bread at Sheehan’s Irish Pub

Mr. Olive Crazy and I went out on the town last night. Since moving to Wrens, Georgia, were I am conducting version 2.0 of my olive variety trials, we hadn’t had a proper “date night.” And, we needed one – badly.

After a day of making farm-related purchases in the nearest “big city,” Augusta, we turned to our trusty mobile restaurant apps to find good food, a comfortable atmosphere, and a tasty martini. After some debate we settled on Sheehan’s Irish Pub at the intersection of Central and Monte Sano Avenues. It was the perfect choice.

We settled into a cozy corner booth, ordered drinks, and food and turned our attention to the college football game playing behind the bar. While I sipped my drink, Tom wiped out the bread the waitress left on the table. Seeing that the bread quickly disappeared, the waitress asked if we’d like some more. I hadn’t had any so I left that decision to Tom. He gave her an enthusiastic – yes, and remarking about its salty, chewy, deliciousness asked what kind of bread it was.

My ears perked up at her response. “Kalamata olive bread,” she said. Now I absolutely had to try the bread.

It was wonderful. The exterior was slightly crunchy without being a tooth-breaker. The inside had a light but chewy texture and the saltiness of the Kalamata olives was perfect.

I tried to find out which bakery made the bread but didn’t have much success. The restaurant orders it through Sysco and the invoice had a code of BrkSimp, which wasn’t helpful. I’m resolved to call Sysco on Monday to find out the bakery name. It’s a start.

After our splendid meal Tom and I went old school and drove through a local car wash featuring disco lights. It seemed fitting since the car wash is across the street from the former location of Stonehenge, a discotheque from the 70s, where a young Tom held up the wall near the dance floor and a young Mary danced her heart out to The Commodores Brick House and the Bee Gees Night Fever.

These days the not-so-young Mary and Tom are content to grow olives, eat Kalamata olive bread, and drive through a disco car wash before returning to the country where soft breezes blow through the silvery leaves of our young olive trees.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Oct 172014
Georgia Olive Farms Olio Nuovo

Georgia Olive Farms Olio Nuovo

Hot Damn! I love, love, love the unfiltered olive oil that comes straight out of the olive mill. Some olive oil companies call it olio nuovo, some call it limited edition, and some, new oil: whatever it’s called this freshly pressed, unfiltered olive oil is a treat.

I’m going to interject a word of warning here. DO NOT SAVE IT FOR LATER. Use it up pretty quickly. Why? Because when some of the olive fruit is left in the oil it spoils faster, but – hey – you didn’t buy a great extra virgin olive oil to look at – right? Go ahead and mangia!

Olive harvesting in the northern hemisphere started in September and in my U.S. state, Georgia, harvesting is almost over. The first to have olive oil is Georgia Olive Farms and now, for one month only, they are selling their fresh, olio nuovo extra virgin olive oil through their online store. I just bought a six pack so hurry and get yours too.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Sep 192013

I found a video for us to enjoy on how to grow olives. It’s for the home gardener and is from the Better Homes and Gardens Australia website. Here is the link to the companion article.

In the video the host, Graham Ross, mentions a pruning technique to help encourage olive trees to grow fruit or grow more fruit. It’s this practice, opening up the canopy to let in the sunlight and air, that inspired my closing good wishes for all of my readers (see bottom of article ↓).

After you have fruit on your olive trees you absolutely must eat some, BUT not straight away. They’ll need to be pickled first. Also from Better Homes and Gardens are instructions on how to pickle your own olives.

“Step 1: Pick then sort olives, removing any that are damaged or deformed. Remove odd stems and leaves from olives to be cured. Rinse well with water.
Step 2: Place olives on a cutting board. Prick each several times with a fork or make 3 slits in skin using a serrated knife.
Step 3: Put 10 cups water into a clean bucket. Add ½ cup sea salt or cooking salt. Put olives in bucket, ensuring all are submerged – you can put a plate on top to keep olives under solution, if required.
Step 4: Pour out and replace saltwater with fresh saltwater each day. Do this for about 12 days for green olives and about 10 days for black olives.
Step 5: Bite into an olive to test – if bitterness is almost gone, your olives are ready for final salting.
Step 6: Pour off and measure last lot of saltwater so you know how much brine to make.
Step 7: Measure and put that quantity of warm water into a pan. Add and dissolve salt at a ratio of 1 cup salt to 10 cups water. Bring to the boil. Allow to cool.
Step 8: Put olives into a jar. Pour brine over them until all are submerged. Top jar with 1cm of olive oil, tightly screw on lid to seal and put in a cool cupboard. You can store your olives like this for at least 12 months.
Step 9: When you’re ready to eat, pour out brine and fill jar with clean, cool water. Leave in refrigerator for 24 hours, then bite to test. If they’re too salty, empty water and replace with fresh water. Leave in fridge for another 24 hours and test again. Repeat until your olives are just as you like them.”

May the sun shine through your branches.


May 092013

For a long time I steered away from infused olive oils. The reason was simple. I wanted to perfect my olive oil tasting (sensory evaluation) skills on olive oils that were supposed to be extra virgins.

Over the last year I’ve included both fused (also known as flavored) and infused olive oils in my tasting adventures. I wrote an article a year ago called Flavored vs. Infused Olive Oil. It was shortly after that I began tasting and comparing both fused/flavored and infused oils.

I’ve tasted an assortment of herbed, chili-peppered, vegetable, and who-knows-how-they-did-it infused olive oils. There were those that were fine but there were also those that masked beginning to advanced stages of rancidity. Frankly, that’s what I expected so those aren’t the problems I’m writing about today. The problems I am addressing are:

  • Flavor changes, and
  • Spoilage (non-toxic and toxic)

Changes in flavor of infused olive oils

This one is simple. Each infused olive oil I purchased, except red-chili or jalepeno-infused oils, went through a flavor change in the infused ingredient within a few months of purchase and a significant change a few months beyond that.

Herbaceous ingredients first lost their vibrancy then became bitter. Garlic became stronger then sweeter. An oil named ‘butter’ became strong and chemicalish.

The red chili and jalepeno didn’t change at all and I couldn’t tell if the oil was getting rancid. It was even difficult to tell if there was a greasy mouth feel, which is a characteristic of rancidity. Some may think this is a good thing. The point is, I couldn’t tell one way or the other.

Toxic and non-toxic spoilage in olive oil as a result of infusing

These reactions are a result of the natural oxidation process that occurs, not only to the olive oil, but to the ingredient infused in the oil. The spoilage can create toxic components or non-toxic components. It is rare that an infused ingredient would create harmful toxic levels but it can happen.

There is a saying that I can’t remember correctly, or even who said it. It is about toxicity and olive oil. It goes something like this: If olive oil were a good medium for toxic substances there wouldn’t be a human race.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t err on the side of caution.

Non-toxic spoilage is any change in the chemical composition of the olive oil resulting from oxidation or some other molecule combination that causes unpleasant tastes, smells, or appearance (cloudiness). It won’t hurt you, but ewww!


Try fused/flavored olive oils. The ingredients are added during the olive crushing process. The flavors are richer and I used each of them within about three to four months of opening and didn’t detect any flavor changes. That doesn’t mean the flavor won’t change at some point later than infused oils, but don’t wait around for that to occur unless you are conducting your own experiments.

You can also make your own infused olive oil. Simply add an herb or other food item you like to an oil and let it steep in the closed container for a few days. Try it at intervals to see if you enjoy the flavor. Then use it up in the next few months.


I never tried citrus-infused or fused olive oils so can’t comment on them.

May the sun shine through your branches.