Heidi Engelbrecht from The Olive Pit and her husband, Stiaan, started farming with olives on their Broederstroom farm in 2007. Stiaan came from the Cape and always had a dream to farm with olives or grapes. What started off as a hobby turned into a fully-fledged olive farm with over 2500 trees. They literally started from scratch, planting trees and waiting for 5 years before they could get their first harvest. After 7 years the trees are in full production. Currently they have about 500 such trees. Farming with olives in this region has it challenges and but they absolutely love it.
Heidi joined the Hazel Food Market in 2013 where she started selling their olives. Her main objective was to have direct contact with customers and understand what their preferences are, so she could adapt her bottled product to become the best around. Her focus is on stuffed olives and currently she makes olives stuffed with almonds, garlic, chilli, jalapenos, feta, blue cheese and parmesan cheese. All products can be tasted at her stall. She also makes olive marmalade, olive salad dressing and olive loaves that she bakes every week. The absolute favourite has proved to be the olive relish, made with caramelised onions, olives and sweet peppers in a balsamic reduction. And of course she stocks a variety of green and black olives as well.
But the most exciting part started last year when they pressed their first oil. In March 2015 they started pressing oil for the second year. Their oil is called a Frantoio oil which is based on the variety of olives used when pressing the oil. It’s quite a robust oil full of flavour and just lovely in salads. The freshness really comes through because you get to buy oil made from olives that were literally still on the trees weeks ago. The olives are picked the day before pressing. The oil is cold pressed, extra virgin. What this means is that no heat is used when pressing the oil and the olives, pips and all, just go through the press once. When olives are heated during the pressing process you tend to get more oil from the extraction. Some people would even run the wastage which is generated after the first press through the machine again with heat to maximise the amount of oil generated. In both instances the nutritional value of the oil is destroyed. So cold pressed means there is absence of damaging heat during the process and extra virgin means that olives are only pressed once. All this results in olive oil full of goodness with a high nutritional value. Their oil is filtered once through a cotton filter and then bottled by hand. The press can process up to 50 kilograms of olives per hour.
Heidi has also started working with customers interested in curing their own olives. She offers them a kit with fresh olives and all the instructions on how to go about curing them.