May 042012

It’s time for olive harvesting to begin on the south side of the planet and the festivities have begun.

Make your way to the picturesque Swartland towns of Riebeek Kasteel and Riebeek West for the annual Riebeek Valley Olive Festival. The festival takes place this weekend May 5 and 6.

For your convenience there is return shuttle service from Cape Town. Also there is tractor service between each town, farm, and event. The first ride is free and subsequent lifts are R5 with proceeds going to charity.

The festival showcases the best in Riebeek Valley foods, wines, and olives. Check out the details at the festival website.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Nov 182011

Wild Olive Farm’s Buck’s Ridge Olive Estateand another Tulbagh Valley olive grower had some good news this year.  At the prestigious 2011 Annual South Africa Olive Awards Ceremony held in Paarl, two Tulbagh Valley olive oil producers proved that Tulbagh Valley olive oils rank among the best in world.

John and Fi Acland of Groote Vallei won a Gold Medal, while Brendon and Sue McHugh of Buck’s Ridge Olive Estate won Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals in three different categories. Buck’s Ridge Olive Estate was the only South African olive oil roducer to win Medals in each Style category.

“The South Africa Olive Awards showcase the best Extra Virgin Olive Oils that South Africa has to offer and this year was no exception,” said Professor Luciano Scarselli, leader of the 2011 South Africa olive tasting panel. Professor Scarselli, from the Tuscan region of Italy, is one of the world’s most experienced and respected olive oil tasters. In a press conference, Professor Scarselli said that the quality of South African extra virgin olive oils entered into this year’s competition ranked amongst the best in the world. He continued by saying that South African olive oil producers and the South African olive industry should be exceptionally proud of their achievements in recent years.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the chance to buy real, fresh, extra virgin olive oils from all around the world in your neighborhood? Sadly, these extra virgin olive oils are not for sale in the United States. Maybe they will be “found”. I hope so.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Nov 162011

When I was first introduced to the infamous olive oil squeeze bottle and wrote about it, I received an email from a nice fellow named Brendon McHugh. We had a few pleasant email communications and I asked him to send me information on his olive farm. Let’s take a trip now to Tulbagh, South Africa where Brendon and Sue McHugh own and run Buck’s Ridge Olive Estate and Wild Olive Farm.

Sue and Brendon McHugh are former multi-continent oil and gas industry IT professionals turned olive oil producers. They farm on 130 hectares (+-300 acres) in the Tulbagh valley. The Tulbagh valley is situated about an hour’s drive from Cape Town and has a perfect Mediterranean-like climate. The McHugh’s take advantage of the climate and grow both olives and wine grapes.

They have 12 hectares (30 acres) of olive groves on their own farm, another 11 hectares (26 acres) on their neighbor’s farm, and this year planted another 6 hectares (14 acres). The cultivars Brendon and Sue grow for their olive oil are Mission, Frantoio, Leccino, and Coratina. The new plantings this year are Kalamatas for their new table olive venture.

The McHughs have their own milling equipment and use the Italian Oliomio 700 and 350 presses (extraction units) which gives a total throughput of 1050Kg per hour. This past season, they produced around 30000 liters. To make a real go of their venture in tough economic times they even imported bottling, capping and labelling machines. I think Sue and Brendon mean business.

Their olive oil is a blend of the cultivars they grow although they do tend to favor the Tuscan Frantoio and Leccino cultivars which gives the oil a lovely, herbaceous greenness, pepperiness, and freshness. The oil is then slightly toned-down for local consumers with the addition of the delicate and somewhat milder Mission oil.

Currently the olive oil produced at Wild Olive Farm is sold at local markets, but they do export small volumes of olive oil to markets in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Belgium. They have yet to crack into the US and I know they would like to do so.

Best of luck to Brendon and Sue McHugh.

May the sun shine through your branches.