Marni Redding was a true pioneer. She decided that, since Oregon is so good at vineyards that she’d try to grow olives. She planted her first olive trees in 2008. A hard winter followed and she lost many trees. Oregon usually has fairly mild winters. Rather than give up she sought advice from California olive growers and planted more olive trees that were 4 and 5 years old. The survival rate improved. It has been subsequently learned that Oregon olive groves can reliably produce 2 to 3 tons of olives per acre that, when milled, can yield 30 to 40 gallons of oil per ton.
The Oregon Oil Mill at Red Ridge planted its first olives in 2004 at the Durant Vineyards in the Dundee Hills near Dayton south of Portland. It became and remains the only commercial olive mill in this state. According to its website, redridgefarms.com, where smart shoppers can buy and try their excellent olive oils, this is “the only Olioteca in the Pacific Northwest”. It was established in 2008 and is now home to 17 acres of olive trees. It’s called the Durant Olive Mill, and it gives several parties and sponsors other events each year to promote its varied olive oils. They make olive oil like they do in Italy and Greece. It’s not cheap but I can buy Oregon Olive Mill oil at a food store a couple of miles from my home. It carries Arbequina, Koroneiki and Frantoio varieties. Ruth and I and some friends attended one of their events last year and got hooked. Of course, we had free samples but to buy a bottle nearby costs me $21.99. It’s actually worth it. The Oregon Oil Mill did not pay me to write this.
At that tasting party Ruth and I got to see the olive oil making process. The biggest shock to me was that the seeds are not removed from the olives before they’re made into olive oil. Once made, Oregon Olive Mill oil is stored under inert gasses in stainless steel tanks and bottled weekly. They warned us to use the contents rather quickly, which we had no problem doing.
I was told by a doctor to change my diet several years ago, so Ruth and I almost exclusively use olive oil for cooking. Despite it high calories, its part of the healthful Mediterranean diet and considered an excellent dietary fat containing generous amounts of antioxidants. It’s also anti-inflammatory. The experts who recommended that we switch to olive oil said that I’d be reducing my risk of chronic disease if I used lots of it. However, many of the other things on my list of never-to-eat-again treats and unsafe drinks according to so-called food experts are now considered healthful. For example, I was told never to drink anything but decaf coffee for the rest of my life. Boooooo!
PS The beautiful olive tree up top is from freepik.com.
PPS After we switched to olive oil, Ruth & I found that a lot of it became rancid before we could use all of it. Then we learned that the oils from the Mediterranean are blended, which causes that in-the-bottle decline. To solve this we use California and Oregon olive oils exclusively.