About Orion Olives

My late husband Frans started the olive plantation. Frans was a pharmacist and he loved nature. He used to farm part-time with vegetables. Theft was always a huge problem, especially after a beautiful bright moonlight evening. This was the time to steal and to load a pickup full of cabbage, potatoes, spinach, peppers, sweet potatoes, etc. and irrigation equipment. The above prompted him to start farming with a product, which is not a product for theft. Olives was the answer as unprocessed olives are absolutely inedible. They are bitter and they also don’t need sprinkler irrigation but drip irrigation through plastic tubes. During 2004 we received 10 trees to see if they are adaptable to our climate. They earthed well. With the result we ordered another 5,000 trees from Hartswater in November 2005. Another 1,000 was ordered from Worcester in February 2007 and 2,200 in October 2009 and 1,300 in October 2011. Frans passed away in March 2008 after 6 months of poor health and I took over complete control on the farm.

What makes the Gauteng region’s climate is suitable for our production line? Gauteng’s climate is quite mild which makes it well suited for the cultivation of olives. Cold winters are essential but temperatures must not drop lower than -4 degrees Celsius, which are not the case here. Along rivers and dams temperatures can drop more than in higher lying areas and one must be careful with plantings and especially in these regions the small trees will have to be covert with some protection for the 1st year or 2. Big trees can survive with temperatures up to -6 degrees Celsius. Maximum temperatures suitable for olives vary between 22-30 degrees Celsius, i.e. tropical climate is not suitable. Depending on our rainfall during the year, drip irrigation must be applied. The ideal is +/- 20 litres of water per tree per week in the summer. If there are wild olive trees in the surrounding area, this will give you a good indication of whether the climate is suitable or not. Long hot summers supply large fruit and lots of oil, if the adequate nutrition and water was given.

Olives and olive products increase in demand as a result of research on the good qualities it possesses. Currently an average of 85% of olive oil is being imported from abroad and an average of 20% of our table olives. There is a drastic increase in the demand because we are more conscious about our health. With Gauteng’s summer rainfall region we have fewer problems with anthracnose (a disease in trees, because of the humidity). It is more commonly found in the Cape province with wet conditions in the winter rainfall areas. South Africa also has less minor pests and diseases than in Europe. Our labour cost is lower here than in Europe especially where table olives are being handpicked. Due to water shortage that may arise, it is a fruit that can survive with little water resulting only in a smaller harvest. Olives can also be planted in areas that are less fertile soils because its root system is only 50-80 cm deep and therefore correct nutrition allows optimal growth.

Where did our name "Orion Olives" originate? Orion is the brightest of all recognizable stars in the night sky and can be seen all over the world. It was formed about +/- 1,5 million years ago and it is claimed that it won’t burn out within the next +/- 1,2 million years.

Our list of Products includes:

Oil Olives
  • Frantoio
  • Coratina
  • Favalosa (FS17)
  • Leccino

Table Olives
  • Kalamata
  • Mission
  • Manzanilla
  • Beroni

What is the difference between them? Table Olives have a firm pulp and can be picked in a green or black colour and the fruit is normally bigger than oil olives with a very low oil content. Oil Olives oil content range from 18-22%. It has a less firm pulp and is easier to grind, especially the FS17 cultivar.

Our most favourite olive to work with is the FS17, which is also called the Favalosa. It is a smaller tree, almost like a dwarf type that needs less pruning. The first fruit are starting to ripe from the middle of February (in comparison with Coratina which takes until late July). It is of the highest oil varieties (22%). It has a very mild flavour oil that is absolutely suitable for baking. The scent is a soft fruit flavour and has a pleasant sensation to taste.

The production process in detail, from planting the tree to producing the oil:

  1. First the soil needs to be analysed – PH must be between 5 and 6. If the PH is too low it can be corrected by means of agricultural lime
  2. The soil needs to be well loosened and holes of +/- 50 cm deep and 20 x 20 cm wide need to be dug and then filled up with water and the tree planted
  3. Trees need to be provided with enough nitrogen, phosphates, calium, magnesium and micro elements on a regular basis
  4. Boron should be provided 4 times per year to ensure fertilization, fruit set and fruit ablactating
  5. Each tree should be watered with +/- 20 litres of water per week
  6. Treatment is necessary between August and October to make sure that the trees have no deceases or pests
  7. Harvesting is normally from the beginning of March until the end of May
  8. The best oil is obtained from only half ripe to ripe fruit and if it’s pressed within 48 hours of picking

The Health aspects of olive oil are endless and include:

  1. Heart diseases in Mediterranean countries are 80% lower than in countries where olive products are not widely used
  2. Breast cancer is 50% lower, because saturated fats are being replaced with olive oil
  3. Olive oil is a very good antioxidant to improve your immune system
  4. Regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  5. Skin problems, for dry eczema skin, sunburn and babies nappy rash
  6. Help prevents osteoporosis, i.e. Bone formation due to the high intake of calcium and magnesium
  7. It prevents constipation, ulcers, abdominal pain and gallstones
  8. Improves circulation in the body’s omega 3 and 6 and reduces pain in muscles

What is the difference between the green and black olives? All olives are originally green, the colour changes to yellow-green and then to black. Certain types for example: Manzanilla gets preserved when they are yellow-green and we call them green olives, while Kalamata gets preserved once they are black.

Due to the health benefits of olive oil, many people have switched over from regular plant oils to olive oil for all their cooking and baking needs.

Our favorite olive oil recipe: Olive Tapenade

  • 375gr Pitted Black Olives
  • 80gr Capers, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Anchovy fillets drained, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 Cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustered
  • 1 Bay leaf – chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 table spoon brandy
  • ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well and the mixture is coarsely pureed. Serve as a dip with crusty bread, grilled vegetables or chicken.

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