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Elysium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Introduction

Written 08th June, 2005, modified 2011/10/05
Email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

Grown organically without irrigation at Elysium, near Armagh in the Clare Valley
by Denece, Dave and Ken Clarke

Denece and Dave, 20 Musgrave St, Crystal Brook 5523
Phone 0400 256 125, email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com

Ken, Unit 4, 17-19 Church St, Marden 5070
Phone 8363 9467, Mobile 0422 137 759, email kenclarkesa@yahoo.com.au

Elysium

In Greek mythology Elysium is the land of perfect happiness at the end of the Earth by the banks of the Oceanus River. Ken and Dave have always had a fascination for Greek mythology; and with rolling green hills, olive trees and vineyards we felt our property resembled the Greek heaven. Both our property and our Extra Virgin Olive Oil bear the name 'Elysium'.

Our philosophy at Elysium

"You should try to give to the environment at least as much as you take from it."
We are converting the property from the practically treeless cropping land that we bought in 1993 into open woodland. The native trees that we are growing on the greater part of the property will take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; we want to do our little bit to reduce greenhouse warming and climate change. At some time in the future the native trees may be sustainably harvested for fuel after petroleum has become increasingly scarce and expensive. If they are ever harvested replacements will be planted at the same time.

Our olive orchard

Planting started in 1994 and has continued on and off to the present. The groves consists of around 600 trees of many varieties. While the trees were irrigated lightly in the early years, they have got by on natural rainfall alone since early 2003. Yields would be greatly increased by heavy irrigation, but we feel that water is precious, and choose to produce an environmentally responsibly product.

Our label

The painting is by Ian Roberts. Ian is renowned for his paintings of native birds, foliage, and flowers. He displays his paintings and other quality crafts at the Medika Gallery, Blyth, eight kilometres from Elysium. Ian shares our love of native vegetation and is equally devoted to its preservation and re-establishment.
The bird on the label, and the background of this Internet page, is the endemic, though not common, red-capped robin (Petroica goodenovii). It is sitting on a sprig from one of our fruiting olive trees.

Organic

Our operation is small and more a hobby than a commercial enterprise. Full organic certification requires at least three audits over as many years. The total cost to achieve certification is around $1000, and then around $250 a year to keep certification. This would take a large part, if not all of our profits. We have chosen to grow organically, but not seek certification. We stopped insecticide use in 2000 and ceased 'chemical' fertiliser use in 2003. We believe in bringing our clients as natural a product as possible.

Environmentally friendly

We believe that our oil is as environmentally friendly as olive oil can be. There are problems with olive trees going feral, we try to minimise that in our area. All other oil producers that I know of bottle their oil in use-once-and-throw-away bottles. This is a waste of energy and results in unnecessary production of greenhouse gasses. We clean and reuse as many bottles as we can, as was common thirty or more years ago with almost all products sold in bottles.

Extra Virgin

To be classed Extra Virgin, an olive oil must have a free acidity level of no more than 1%. Effectively what Extra Virgin means is that the olive oil was extracted from fresh olives by purely mechanical processes using little if any heat and no solvents. Extra virgin is the best class of olive oil because it has much more flavour than other classes. Our oil more than meets the requirements to be classified as Extra Virgin.

Health benefits

Olive oil is an integral part of the healthy 'Mediterranean diet'. It contains no cholesterol, no trans-fatty acids, a high level of mono-unsaturated fatty acids and is a rich source of antioxidants. Enjoy extra virgin olive oil in all sorts of cooking including barbeques, on salads, as a healthier alternative to butter and margarine, and with fresh bread and dukkah. The July 2011 Choice magazine reported on a French study of 7625 older people that showed those who regularly used olive oil had a 41% lower risk of stroke over six years than those who consumed none.

Taste

With a fresh grassy and buttery flavour and the distinct peppery after-taste of a quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, our oil has all the flavour lacking in many of the imported extra virgin olive oil blends.




From tree to bottle

Picking

The olives are picked by hand using a small rake to 'comb' the olives off the branches into a bag hung around the picker's neck. It is very time consuming. Olives typically weigh between two and six grams each and it takes more than a hundred-thousand of them to fill a standard 1.2 x 1.8 metre trailer.

'Pressing'

We take our olives to presses either in the Mid North or Yorke Peninsula. The process involves crushing the olives and their pits in a hammer mill, stirring the mix for a time (malluxing), to encourage the tiny oil droplets to coalesce, and then using a carefully adjusted and very specialised centrifuge to separate the oil from the olive pulp and 'vegetable water'. The entire procedure is chemical free and uses only physical processes.

Bottling

Our oil is not filtered. After storage in bulk sufficiently long to allow most sediment to settle the oil is bottled by hand. Some sediment, or haze, will be seen in some bottles. The bottles we use are Greenhouse-friendly, we wash and reuse as many bottle as we can, rather than having them remelted between uses, saving a huge amount of energy.




Feral olive trees

Olive trees growing wild are a major environmental problem in parts of South Australia. There have been many feral olive trees in the vicinity of Elysium and the Clare Valley generally for many years. At Elysium we remove all feral trees and shrubs, including olives, on the property and near our boundaries.
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