16 March 2011 by Robyn Campbell

Olives in strange places

Hot summers accompanied by potent late afternoon thunderstorms, arid, chilly winters, and scant rainfall are hardly textbook conditions for growing olives, right?

Most people know that olives, which originate from the eastern Mediterranean, grow best in regions with hot dry summers, and relatively cool winters, with little frost, and an average annual rainfall of around 800 mm - like the Western Cape.

Technically, then, the Gauteng Highveld’s the last place anyone should attempt to grow olives. Anyone that is, except Veronica and Patrick Jonsson of Mkholo Olive Farm.

Of the 50-odd olive growers in Gauteng, the Jonsson’s have conquered seasonal temperature extremes, pests, and diseases to become the first commercial olive grove in the Highveld.

Veronica and Partrick’s olive farm, Mkholo, lies in the dolerite and limestone foothills of the Witwatersberg Mountains, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

Here, from established Frantoio and Mission olive groves, the Jonsson’s produce extra virgin olive oil that reflects the singular provenance of the Leewenkloof Valley.

Now in their 3rd year of production, Mkholo is a boutique estate with 6500 trees, including the recent addition of Coratina to their line up of noble oil-producing cultivars.

Quality conscious in the extreme, the Jonsson’s olives are handpicked and cold-pressed to create single varietal, superbly aromatic olive oils.

Mkholo Olive Oil is sold only ex-estate because Veronica and Patrick believe that their customers, just like the quality of their fruit, have a large part to play in the evolution of the Mkholo brand. Cured table olives, and delicious tapenades are available, too.

A labour of love, Patrick says, ‘Mkolo will never be about volume. Our aim is to produce exceptional, true to terroir olive oils for discerning olive oil lovers.’

The Greek poet Homer reputedly called olive oil ‘liquid gold’. How fortunate then, that 1 hour northwest of Johannesburg, the City of Gold, food-lovers can tap into an equally precious golden substance: Mkholo Olive Oil.

To visit Mkholo contact Veronica on 083 275 1387, or email: mkholo@iafrica.com

Category: Arts & Entertainment, Food & Wine

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