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Against All Odds: The First Olive Oil From Canada

The very first 100 percent Canadian extra virgin olive oil did not come easy for pioneers George and Sheri Braun.
Jun. 16, 2017
Emily Olsen

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George and Sheri Braun of The Olive Farm on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia have suc­cess­fully pro­duced the very first 100 per­cent Canadian extra vir­gin olive oil from their 2016 har­vest. The jour­ney has not been an easy one.

It’s tough being a Canadian olive grower some­times.- Gerorge Braun, The Olive Farm

Between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia main­land, Salt Spring Island — the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands — houses a unique micro­cli­mate in its fer­tile Fulford Valley. With the area’s warm sum­mers and mild win­ters, it could be described as a mild Mediterranean cli­mate. However, that may be a stretch, George admits.

Here in this val­ley, after four and a half years of search­ing, George and Sheri decided to set­tle down and pur­sue their dream of own­ing an olive farm. With 73 acres, about 2,500 pro­duc­ing olive trees and their own olive mill, the dream has now become a real­ity.

Nothing came easy for this pio­neer­ing cou­ple. Everyone we talked to either hung up the phone or laughed and said, You can’t do it there!’” George admit­ted. He had a dif­fi­cult time find­ing some­one who would even answer his emails about pur­chas­ing olive trees and bring­ing them to Canada.

He man­aged to buy sev­eral Tuscan vari­eties from California and shipped them to Canada with bare roots in order for them to be allowed across the bor­der. This trau­matic expe­ri­ence for the seedlings ensured that their tran­si­tion to the Great White North would not be a smooth one.

In 2012, the Brauns planted 1,000 olive trees in the fields, and then they waited. Of course, in the mean­time they occu­pied them­selves by plant­ing and har­vest­ing other things, includ­ing blue­ber­ries, grapes, kale, wheat, gar­lic and the list goes on.

The Olive Farm on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Finally, on December 3rd and 4th 2016, the olives of Canada’s first olive oil were hand har­vested. They were pressed just five hours later in The Olive Farm’s very new olive mill. It had just arrived from Italy and was being set up as the olives were being har­vested.

The tim­ing was just about per­fect. The next day, the win­ter weather moved in with snow and ice that would have destroyed the crop that year had it come two days ear­lier. As it was, the last five rows of olive trees were never har­vested.

Nevertheless, years of patience and hard work paid off: George and Sheri man­aged to do two press­ings of olive oil, includ­ing a Maurino sin­gle vari­etal, and the results were thrilling. We were pretty excited, we thought it was really good but we needed a more objec­tive view, so we’ve had a cou­ple of great responses now,” Sheri said, adding that it has been extremely well received by sev­eral peo­ple who know olive oil.

The Olive Farm on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

The first Canadian extra vir­gin olive oil exhibits pro­nounced notes of cocoa and cof­fee which some tasters would find pleas­ant, but they can also arise from frost-bit­ten olives or char­ac­ter­ize the grubby” defect (which is caused by the pres­ence of olive fly lar­vae in the crushed fruit), or a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, accord­ing to an expert who tasted the Braun’s oil at Olive Oil Times’ request.

It def­i­nitely won’t be the last from The Olive Farm, Sheri said. Now that we’ve got this won­der­ful oil, we’re going full steam ahead!”

Like the begin­ning of their jour­ney, the future might not be easy. This win­ter has been the harsh­est in 40 years on Salt Spring Island, which has caused many of the Braun’s young trees to die.

They believe, how­ever, that if the major­ity can come through, their tough lit­tle trees will sur­vive any­thing the Canadian win­ter throws at them. Like George says, It’s tough being a Canadian olive grower some­times.”



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