Branching out: Olive growing in Victoria
From Cobram to Red Hill, Victoria's olive groves are producing top-notch produce.
For years my mum has slathered surplus extra virgin olive oil on her arms and legs, maintaining it works better than any moisturising cream. She splashes it on the salad leaves, then adds a little bit to the palm of her hand and runs it up and down her arms and legs.
Like a Greek throwing a pinch of salt over the left shoulder, it’s akin to some kind of cooking ritual. “Those Mediterraneans have beautiful skin,” is how she explains it.
Extra virgin olive oil is the good stuff that’s pressed naturally from the olive and at its best when it has a golden emerald sheen and an almost grassy flavour. I’ve always preferred ingesting it to wearing it, but it turns out mum is spot on: extra virgin olive oil is packed full of essential vitamins and is high in antioxidants. Ergo it is good for the body, both inside and out.
This came to light on a recent visit to Rich Glen Olive Estate in Cobram, a boutique olive grove with an extensive farmgate store. The first product I picked up was not, as expected, a bottle of first pressings, but a tastefully packaged bottle of body oil.
The chief ingredient was extra virgin olive oil with the addition of almond oil, jojoba and natural beeswax, and I found myself slathering some on my arms mum-style. There is a whole room at Rich Glen dedicated to natural body products, from lip balms, body lotion, night serums and eye cream to baby sprays, insect repellents and deodorant. They’re all developed, packaged and sold on the property.
With hot dry summers, cool winter nights and the benefit of Murray River irrigation, Cobram has become a premium olive-growing region. For local growers, the busiest time of year – the annual harvest in April – is about to get under way. The ripening green and black fruit will be gently shaken from the trees, then pressed – pips and all – to be turned into liquid gold.