My story began in 1990 when I had to look after a few buckets of curing olives for my landlady. The olives had a wonderful yeasty smell (like bread dough proofing - just before it has to go into the oven) and that triggered in me an immense interest in olives that would steer my future.
Back then the olive industry in South Africa was in an embryonic stage. The only notable olive trees were in and around Paarl in the Western Cape, on the farm of Mr Carlos Costa — who is seen as the father of the olive industry in South Africa. He started planting olive trees after arriving here from Italy and the only olive oil he could buy was in a pharmacy, in a small 100ml bottle! The big olive producers today in South Africa, only started planting olive trees years later.
I attended the annual Stellenbosch Street Market and on a more regular basis, the Waldorf School Saturday Market. I had a never-ending, but exciting task of educating interested customers in appreciating olives and their oils. The demand for my few jars of olives grew and I soon had more customers than olives and had to plan strategically for the future.
In the meantime I had travelled to Italy and France and was totally in awe of their fresh food markets and the abundance of different olives on offer. I could not wait to get back home and expand my own olive range.
At the birth of my first daughter we planted an olive tree, but that would take another 5 years to bear a sizeable harvest. My problem was where to find them in the mean time? And so my big challenge started; I gathered olives from every olive tree I could find in old gardens in Stellenbosch and from all the olive trees planted as windbreaks on farms. I then had enough olives to fill a few buckets, which also filled my tiny kitchen.
The buckets in my kitchen became barrels on my porch and for the next few years following, the children’s portable pool, which was the only container big enough to hold the ever-growing volume. As the summer drew to its close, the olives ripened on the trees, signalling for and the pool was to be scrubbed down in preparation for the ton of olives that I bought from a new olive farm outside Stellenbosch. Curing took all winter and the pool pump came in handy for stirring and changing the water. Before the summer heat was upon us, the olives were ready to go into storage containers and the whole cleaning process took place again. This time round it was greater fun as the olives left behind some oil and turned the cleaning process into a slippery and sliding enjoyable experience for all, and the girls were back in their salt-water pool.
My home could no longer contain my need to expand and in 2008 I moved my olives to a wonderful and peaceful setting on the farm DelVera which is situated 10 km outside Stellenbosch – on the R44 towards Paarl.
I then had enough space to employ some much needed helping hands. Two people soon became four and now I have seven wonderful and valuable people helping me. Together we are now able to manage a couple of tons of olives per year.
We regularly attend high end farmer’s markets in and around Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Cape Winelands, where we sell our olives to lots and lots of happy customers.