Twenty minutes down the road from Wagga is a farm producing some of Australia’s finest olives.
Yarragundry’s Parafield Olives was awarded a silver medal for Kalamata table olives at the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show, a national competition discovering Australia’s best fine food producers. Parafield also won a bronze medal for Palermo table olives.
However, the big wins should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Parafield Olives founder Margaret Carter, a self-proclaimed connoisseur who can’t stand the mass-produced imports.
“It’s like going from fine wine to ‘goon’,” Ms Carter said.
“Most olives are done in caustic soda in three days, mine are done naturally in brine and while it takes 12 months they taste far better.”
Ms Carter doesn’t just grow the fruit, she’s a taster for the Department of Primary Industries’ Olive Oil Testing Service in Wagga, the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
“I’ve been judging oil there for about seven or eight years and I’ve been judging at shows in Sydney and Adelaide for about 15 years,” Ms Carter said.
“You can tell a bad oil straight away.”
Olive trees were first planted at Ms Carter’s Yarragundry property in 1935 because of the similarities to the Mediterranean climate, but they weren’t her first foray into the cuisine.
“Before I started mucking around with olives I had a goat dairy – I milked goats,” she said.
“In the 90’s people were going around showing the new types of crops you could grow and one of them was olives.
“I decided olives would be far easier than goats and they ticked all the boxes.”
After starting with an olive tree nursery, Ms Carter planted 5000 trees and started pickling, but only got her first commercial crop last year.
“We got three tonnes of olives and I thought this year we might get 10 or 15 tonnes,” she said.
“We had 13 people picking them by hand from April to July and got 40 tonnes.
“I was surprised, I think it’s going to get bigger in coming years.”
Anyone who wants to taste Parafield’s award-winning olives can get them at the Thirsty Crow Brewery and at The Oakroom.