Organic Olive Picking, Toodyay
The other day I was shopping for some honey at Dunn and Walton and a small sign for olive picking in Toodyay caught my attention. We are an olive loving household here and the idea of picking bucket loads of them sounded right up our alley, especially since its difficult finding olives cured in a good quality brine. I emailed my interest to visit and Margaret Esslemont responded she would touch base later in the week as she was watching the weather. Lucky for us, Saturday was looking splendorous, weather wise, and we decided to take up the 10am time slot.
On Saturday morning we left the city travelling north on Mitchell Highway to Joondalup. Passing through, Joondalup looks like a a big city and it was good to see greenery along the street. In other councils across Perth the natural shrubbery is removed leaving a bare concrete scene. The bicycle path looks decent in the area too.
We headed east along Joondalup road to the end of Neeves road hitting the town of Bullsbrook and passing a strawberry farm (where we stopped by on the way back to pick up $1.00 strawberry punnets!). We also passed the maze and outdoor splash park, I always wondered where that fun park was located and well, now I know. The scene changes into a rural setting, we pass a few machinery storage places and then it becomes a little more picturesque when we approach Chittering, it’s much nicer viewing rolling hills of Australian bush. In contrast to the summer months, the rain has turned the landscape green and soon enough we arrive at Esslemont Estate, the journey takes under two hours by car from Perth’s CBD.
Esslemont Estate is a small organic farm with a certification given by the Australian body, NASAA. The farm’s agriculture practices abide by NASAA’s sustainable guidelines. Guineafowl roam the farm controlling the pests and eliminating the need for using heavy chemical sprays. Trees are placed at one section of the farm as a barrier between neighbours. These are just two sustainable practices. I would imagine it takes a great deal of hard work in turning a farm into an organic farm with the 3 year certification process. Being able to pick olives from this place is something special in Western Australia.
Margaret met us near the farm shop and happily showed us the trees that we could start picking. The table top olive trees are lower to the ground compared to the trees used for making olive oil. Here I was thinking we would be on ladders picking the olives (that idea came from watching Under the Tuscan Sun the other night). All the same, I was happy no ladder was needed. Later on, her husband John came past to have a chat, definitely a hard working man and we talked a little more about the farm.
It was peaceful hand picking the olives in the winter sun, the easy task was unwinding and when we were done, we had 18 kilos of rather sizable olives. Margaret gave us a pickling hand sheet to take home. We have a little bit of work ahead of us now, we must store the olives in water and change it daily for 10 days. Then we can create the brine and wait patiently for 6-12 months before they are ready to eat! It’s going to be a long wait but well worth it.
Tips for the day
Bring your own containers
Pack a basket or esky with water and some snacks
Fuel the car up before you leave, we only saw a service station in Joondalup on our route
Bring cash for the payment of the olives
Make a day of it and map a few stops along the way. We stopped at Berry Sweet and picked up a couple of strawberry punnets and coffee. Thanks John for the recommendation!
If Toodyay is a little far to travel, there are loads of olive trees in the old European areas of Fremantle and Hamilton Hill – be sure to ask permission if you stumble on someone’s tree.
Margaret told us about a place called Silverlock, where you can purchase 5L olive pail buckets. You can find Silverlock in Canningvale and they sell to the public.