Misty and grey skies over Hobart cleared to perfect blue as we left the shadow of mt Wellington and headed up the Derwent Valley to visit Robert and Anne Ashbolt’s farm. About 7 km beyond the historic centre of New Norfolk, the Ashbolts grow and produce multi award winning extra virgin olive oil, the olives for which, we would be harvesting that day for use at Ethos.
Anne and Robert welcomed us in to their home with steaming mugs of hot elderflower tea (which they also produce from their own grove of elder trees). We warmed up and gazed out Anne’s kitchen windows across the valley, before heading through the vegetable garden to the processing shed where Robert was busily working, extracting vibrant green oil from crates of freshly picked olives “we try and crush them within an hour of coming off the tree” he told us.
Robert’s bespoke machinery was a lot smaller than we had expected it to be which goes to show how small scale the Ashbolt production really is. We learnt about the processes involved with olive oil production and were allowed to taste some of the oil produced a few hours before (which had been allowed to settel properly). Fruity, rich, and peppery the fresh oil was amazing, no doubt another prize winner for 2012.
We then each grabbed a bucket and headed out to the olive groves to hand pick some olives to serve later in the year at ethos. Olives harvested for oil are stripped off the trees on to nets laid across the ground, before being collected and pressed, where as the art of hand picking olives for the table needs to be a bit more gentile so as to not damage the fruit.
The team worked away on just a couple of trees for a a few hours and returned to the house with buckets and buckets of Ligurian and picholine olives ready for the long brining process back at Ethos.
Anne farewelled us with freshly baked cakes (with fruits from her quince and apple trees) and we vowed to return in spring to see the elderflowers when they are in the middle of their short season. Hopefully the Ashbolt’s herd of bush-run boer goats are kidding…