Gwydir Grove began producing extra virgin olive oil in 1995, with a very small “batch press” imported from Italy and located at the back of the old flour mill in Moree. The Birch and Kirkby families designed the “press” to fit inside a shipping container, with the idea of having a “roving press” to drive from one grove to another to process olives around NSW.
For several years, Jenni Birch and I worked with the press, processing fruit from our own very small trees, trees form farms and gardens in the local area and then further afield from the Hunter Valley to the Queensland boarder. We travelled to Italy, Spain and Turkey several times to learn and immerse ourselves in the “olive culture “of the Mediterranean. I attended an intense organoleptic tasting course in Turkey, run by the International Olive Oil Council, to learn the art and finer points of tasting olive oil.
We quickly realised that our baby 25kg /per hour press was not big enough to cope with the increased production of our own trees and trees in the Inverell district, so we sold it and combined with a group of growers from Inverell to purchase a “continuous flow” processing plant.
This new plant had a processing capacity of one tonne of olives per hour. We thought we would conquer the olive industry. Ten years later, this plant was inadequate for the supply of fruit, so once again we upgraded, this time to a five tonne per hour plant, situated in a purpose built factory at the grove.
This meant that processing could be done within several hours of harvest, ensuring a superior quality end product. Our partnership was increased to three families with the Williams from Narrabri becoming involved.
During the 22 years of production, Gwydir Grove has expanded the range of products from one extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to several – taking into account the maturing tastes of the consumers, the wider acceptance of Australian olive oil and the demand for either mild or robust oil.
We have added flavours of Australia with Lemon Myrtle and Native Mint infusions and our very popular Agrumato range which uses the locally grown citrus – blood orange, lime, lemon and mandarin – processed with the olives to give the most sensational flavoured oils.
These oils have taken out champion medal status at several oil shows in Australia. We also have black Kalamata and Manzanillo pickled olives, an olive paste and recently a delicious Truffle Infusion with truffles sourced from Western Australia.
The current season’s extra virgin olive oil has been very successful, gaining one gold and two silver medals at recently conducted oil shows nationally. The extreme heat during the growing season caused many a wakeful night, worrying how the olives would cope, but it appeared they loved it.
- Ingredients: 1 Big bunch of leafy greens (I used a combination of Silver beet, Kale and Cavelo Nero, because that is what is growing in my veggie garden at the moment), stems removed and chopped roughly. Zest and juice of 1 lemon. 1 tbsp Gwydir Grove Grey Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 2 tbsp Gwydir Grove Blood Orange Agrumato. 2 oranges, peeled and diced. 1 avocado, diced. Seeds of ½ a pomegranate.1 cup mint leaves roughly chopped. 4 tbsp chopped pistachio nuts. Method: Heat a heavy based pan, add the extra virgin olive oil and when hot add the greens. Rotate and shake until slightly wilted. (If you want a totally raw salad, delete this step). Place leaves in a salad bowl to cool. Then add diced avocado, orange segments, pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. To make the dressing put the blood orange agrumato oil, lemon juice and zest into a jar and shake. Drizzle over the salad. Finish with the chopped pistachio nuts. This makes a delicious fresh crunchy salad.