Sunday, November 23, 2014

Overlooked Olives: A Fantastic Forager Find

“There’s a man in the street picking our tomatoes!”- Thor’s daughter

“I know honey. He was very polite and asked if he could take the fruit that we were throwing away!”-Thor

Well, last year I was hell bent on gathering and curing some of the abundant olives that grow in the area. Yet, as the quarter progressed, I got so busy with school I completely missed the harvest. In fact we tried to gather some after they passed prime and only succeeded in finding some milkshakes at the local burger shop. This year however, I took note of immature fruit, watched them begin to ripen, and the moment they were ready I headed out with a cooking pot to fill.

A moment before I reached the stand of public olive trees (the city planted them just for us foragers to enjoy…how cool is that?) I noticed that a local had just pulled up his cherry tomato vines and tossed them in the street for the green waste pick up. The vines were loaded with ripe fruit and my inner hobo couldn’t resist! I knocked on the stranger’s door and a man named Thor answered. He was delighted that I was hoping to make use of the last of this season's tomatoes so I told him I’d come back after seeing about the olives.

There are several varieties of olives planted along this stretch but I was interested in green ripe olives that day. I made off like a bandit with a bountiful harvest in no time flat and returned to gather Thor’s tomatoes.

That night we enjoyed tomato basil pasta and then I set to work curing the olives.

The first step is to wash and crack each olive. These are then weighted down under a vessel in fresh water which is switched out daily for around 10 days. After that, the olives are brined in a mixture of vinegar, salt, lemon, garlic and herbs.

I used the homemade apple cider vinegar my best friend Alex made from the cider we pressed at my family’s orchard a couple of years back.

When all was said and done I grilled some bell pepper, baked some garlic and pulverized some of this season’s foraged English walnuts. Some salt and spices were tossed in the mix and my first ever foraged olive tapenade was ready to eat.

I am all smiles! That was well worth the effort! Well, there are still a few days before the first frost so get out there and grab some olives. I know I will (black ripe olives this time).

For more specifics on olive curing check out this link!

Keep the old ways alive!

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