Hunter Olive Growers and Sellers at Slow Food Earth Markets Maitland

HOOKED ON OLIVES: Ian and Kayelene Anderson with some of their products at the Slow Food Earth Market in The Levee.
HOOKED ON OLIVES: Ian and Kayelene Anderson with some of their products at the Slow Food Earth Market in The Levee.

Ask Ian Anderson about olives and he will tell you it’s an acquired taste - like red wine.

The olive producer didn’t eat olives, or like them, when he bought a property near Mount Vincent with his wife Kayelene.

He could have turned his hand to winemaking with grapes already on the property but instead he offered them to a neighbour and started his journey with olives.

After winning a silver medal at the Hunter Olive Show for his green olive, called University of California, earlier this month you would assume he had made it in the region’s olive world.

But apparently that is not the case.

“Olives are a personal taste - you could have two people taste a gold medal winning olive and one might love it and the other could hate it,” he said.

“It was nice to get the silver medal but it’s not something you really pride yourself on.”

The Andersons’ olive business, Wine Country Olives, sources fruit from three other olive farms in the Hunter.

The addition of Descanso Olives, near Singleton; Gisborne Grove Olives from Gresford and Laguna Olives gave them a wider variety of olives to sell under the banner of Hunter Olive Growers and Sellers.

In an average season Mr Anderson produces two tonnes of table olives and 2500 litres of olive oil.

Olives destined to make oil are put through a cold pressed machine and then filtered into bottles.

Those heading for the table are placed in a saline solution and then transferred into a less salty solution.

Then the olives are either kept in their original state or immersed in a salty solution with other flavours.

The Ligurian style is by far the most popular. It’s his Italian “Kentucky Fried” recipe.

“We hand pick them so the fruit isn’t bruised,” he said.

“Olives are a bitter fruit, if you picked one off the tree and bit into it you wouldn’t take another bite, you would hate it. It wouldn’t kill you but it’s too bitter to taste, so we have to put them all through a debittering process.”

Mr Anderson is sharing his passion for olives at the Slow Food Earth Markets in The Levee. Some of the 2017 varieties are starting to hit the market after being harvested between February and May this year and then left to settle in the saline solution.

Now that Mr Anderson actually enjoys an olive he thinks it is a perfect accompaniment to biscuits, cheese, and olive oil on a tasting plate.

“Olive oil is nice with bread dipping, cheese and a glass of red wine, and it is the same with table olives as well,” he said.

The Slow Food Earth Market is on December 7 between 2pm and 7pm in The Levee.