Olives: They’re Not Just For Martinis Anymore

When traveling in Italy, I am always struck by the beauty of the olive groves that you see just about everywhere you drive or ride a train. The sage-green color (I so desperately wanted to say olive green) against the almost-always blue sky is spectacular. And the delicious olives and flavorful olive oil are renown.

But it turns out I don’t have to travel to Italy to see a grove of beautiful olive trees. In fact, the Queen Creek Olive Mill is a mere 30 minutes or so south of our AZ house. The olive trees, contrasted by the dark green cypress trees, looked just like the views we saw from our window while living a month in Tuscany…..

In lieu of exchanging gifts this past Christmas, Jen and Bec and I decided to share some sort of adventure. We struggled to come up with something both interesting and fun, until Bec remembered Arizona’s own olive mill. She had visited it in the past, and thought we would enjoy it. She knows her sisters well…..

It’s true that I should not be allowed to take selfies.

We met for lunch…..

Yes, that is an olive oil stain in the middle of the menu.

…..and a tour of the olive mill itself. Our tour guide explained that though this is what was used in years past to squish the olives (that is NOT a technical term),…..

…..they now have fancy dancy modern pieces of equipment that do the picking and squishing in a much less time consuming and more efficient manner.

She told us about the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil, and extra virgin olive oil. (It has to do with the pressing.) She also told us that there is no such thing as light olive oil, since olive oil is olive oil. So-called light olive is olive oil mixed with less delicious oils. I’m glad I always buy extra virgin olive oil. And, by the way, cold pressed means oil collected early in the process before the presses warm up.

Our timing was impeccable, because at this time each year, the mill offers its limited edition of olive oil…..

….which is very freshly milled and never makes it to the grocery shelf. The bottle is black, as you can see. Olive oil should always live in a dark bottle. (Note to self: use my clear bottles for something else.) The flavor is intense and delicious. I bought a bottle that I will share with my son Court.

And speaking of flavors, Queen Creek Olive Mill produces a plethora of all-natural flavors, from smoky bacon to spicy three-chili. Since their oils are vegan, I’m not sure how they get the bacon flavor, but it’s there. Our guide suggested using it as a finishing oil for roasted veggies. Yum.

Our lunch, by the way, was amazing, and worth the drive in and of itself. Plus, it allowed us to drive past The Pork Shop, another road trip for another day.