Written by Kevin Kapusi Starow
Moree is situated in the north-western NSW wheat belt and is well known for its hot artesian spas throughout the country. You certainly get a strong sense of community there, as we did while attending the 2015 Moree On A Plate festival which was blessed with an amazingly happy sky this year.
The event attracts not only locals but also visitors who travel hours each way just to soak in the community feel, sampling the exquisite variety of local foods and products. Moree On A Plate was designed originally to highlight and celebrate the rich variety of quality products found within the local area. There you will find everything from Grumpy’s Ginger Beer, smoked trout, Pally’s Pecan selection (seriously Yummy), and Gwydir Grove Olive products. If you are serious about food and passionate about tantalizing your tastebuds, you should definitely consider attending this gem of an event in 2016. Stay tuned to our social media pages for further information and updates. You can also check out the MOAP website yourself at http://www.moreeonaplate.com.au/.
Spend A Sunday
On our second day in Moree, a Sunday, we found ourselves blessed with amazing company and stimulating conversation, all while lost in an olive grove, enjoying a selection of fresh local produce, sprinkled with the seasoning of our unique surroundings. It was picnic time and there was no better place I could think of being, nor would want to be, at that time!
It was about 12 o’clock when we began our journey out to Gwydir Grove, which is more than a farm or processing plant; it is a lifestyle, a passion of both Margi & Jenni who started producing quality olive oils long before their own trees were mature enough to produce suitable quality fruits. This being my first time there, or on any olive grove for that matter, I was not sure what to expect, though what awaited me was truly worth writing about.
Making Of Oil (What an Amazing Way)
I believe this is one of the true diamonds in the rough, an all Australian enterprise right in our backyard, which I knew little about prior to my visit other than the fact that they produce quality oils. Upon arrival, we were greeted by all: Jenni, Margi and their husbands which shows it is without a doubt a family run business. A tour of the processing plant was first up, and as luck would have it this was harvesting time. The huge hopper which funnelled the picked fruit onto a conveyor belt, after being filled by the trucks, was about three-quarters full of olives at the time.
The olives were transported from there up to a vacuum which removes remnant leaves and twigs prior to being sent through a rinsing process. From there the fruit is sent into the chopping or grinding phases where the fruit is transformed into a pulp. They are transported from this stage to the agitation tanks, of which there are three in total, each warmed to varying temperatures and all computer-controlled. There are large mixing wheels that continuously agitate the olive mass, and in some areas, you can already see the oil separating which looks beautiful with its emerald green colour.
Moving forward, the olives move through the first of two centrifuges, which is used to separate the pulp (pomace) from the liquid. The pomace is transported out to a waiting truck which distributes it under the olive trees, allowing the remaining nutrients and goodness to compost and return to the soil from whence it originally came.
The liquid from the first centrifuge now moves to the second centrifuge which removes the oil from the water. From here the extracted oil is sent to settling tanks to allow any remaining impurities to be removed, which ensures the crystal clear oil we are used to seeing.
It was such an eye-opening process and took surprisingly less time than I had imagined. Though, I suppose when you have some 70,000 trees that yield a lot of fruit that needs to be picked and processed within an 8-week window, you need to minimize processing time wherever possible whilst still retaining the integrity of the product.
What a Sunday Lunch (What an Amazing Way)
From there we were all taken out to a place amongst the Olive trees where the afternoon sun freckled its way through the leaves and the cool breeze that rustled through the trees maintained a comfortable temperature. We set out a table complete with bread, savoury tarts, olives, condiments and a variety of other local produce, including a selection of wines. We were encouraged to share in this feast, and it took a little time before we did since we all had a good appetite. The table was almost picked clean of the delicious bounty provided. It was a moment in time that can never be repeated and of which we were all fortunate enough to be a part of.
Prior to leaving, we found the huge picking machine and observed the process it employs to clean the trees of their fruits. It was truly amazing how efficient this giant machine worked. It would gently shake the trees and branches one at a time then deposit the fruits into the awaiting truck which transports it to the hopper, and then the process continues.
We drove out of the gates happy and content, in the knowledge we had just shared in one of those special life experiences, magnified by the sincerity, kindness and simple manners of the company we shared.