All roads lead to Newport for suburban olive harvest

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Robyn Craig and her family travelled across Melbourne on Sunday, but not to go shopping or to the football. They had a pressing appointment to get some olives pressed.

So impressed was Craig to hear of the Olives to Oil Festival that she drove 40 kilometres from Aspendale, in Melbourne’s south-east, to Newport in the city’s inner west, to submit the fruit she helped harvest to be made into olive oil.

The good oil: Robyn Craig flanked by children Minka, 11, and Saski, 5, at the Olives to Oil festival in Newport.Credit: Luis Ascui

The festival, run by Hobsons Bay city council, ran like a well-oiled machine. Craig was among hundreds of backyard harvesters submitting a combined six tonnes of olives in pots, eskies, bags and laundry baskets.

They swapped notes on tree pruning, recipes and family traditions while waiting to have their olives weighed, before pouring the fruit into vats outside Newport Community Hub.

Craig runs a garden club, as a volunteer and parent, at Aspendale Primary School, and on Saturday eight staff, parents and children picked 44 kilograms of olives from one tree at the school.

Craig said the olives used to fall and go to waste but now students learn how to grow and harvest them — and they’re looking forward to tasting the oil.

Vince LoMoro with some of the olives he picked with his mother, Concetta.Credit: Luis Ascui

Vince LoMoro brought 50 kilograms of olives he picked on Saturday with his mother, 90-year-old Concetta LoMoro, at their holiday property in Tootgarook, on the Mornington Peninsula.

Olive picking is a treasured tradition for the pair. As she picked, Concetta told Vince stories from her childhood in Calabria, Italy, when she and her parents would harvest the 500-year-old olive trees at their farm by hand.

Concetta and Vince took all day to pick olives on Saturday but stopped for a lunch of scrambled eggs, zucchini and onion with wine — and also bread dipped in olive oil.

Vince says the oil from the olives they picked will be used for dipping bread in, and for salads.

Concetta and Vince LoMoro in December.Credit: Vince LoMoro

Clare MacDonald brought 10.8 kilograms of olives from two olive trees she was delighted to find in the yard of her rented Altona Meadows house.

“I hate to see food wasted,” she said. Retail food prices were rising and it made sense to create olive oil as a collective “because we can’t all have olive presses in our houses”.

“And I think it’s about being involved in something bigger than yourself,” MacDonald said.

Backyard bounty: Clare MacDonald brought 10 kilograms of olives to be made into oil.Credit: Luis Ascui

Entry to Olives for Oil was free for Hobsons Bay residents and $15 for outsiders, and there was a $5 fee for more than 50 kilograms of olives.

After the olives are processed at Barfold Olives near Kyneton, participants will receive 10 per cent of the weight of their olive donation as olive oil to be picked up on June 18.

Hobsons Bay council sustainability officer Kat Lavers said the festival was a success.

“Food brings us together and people are looking for opportunities to connect to and participate in their local food system,” Lavers said.

“Olive trees grow well in our climate and there are many productive trees across the municipality, but getting them pressed into oil isn’t economical at a household scale, so many go to waste.

“A community pressing is a special opportunity to make the most of this valuable resource.”

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