Recently, I went on a bike ride here in the Diablo Valley. There are amazing bike trails, both paved and for mountain bikes all over this area. I have never been to a place with better and more diverse types of trails so close to town. One of the main reasons I love living here! And course I closely observe the flora of these trails, edible and otherwise. Right now there are all kinds of edibles,– madrono fruits, oranges and lemons of different varieties, even avocados, — as well as a lot of wild winter/spring greens. And of course olives, which I will get to soon. Other times of the year, I see numerous other edible greens, fruits, and nuts. These suburban bike trails and their surrounding wilderness areas are some of the most abundant foraging I have seen anywhere in the Bay Area.
So olives. I love olive oil and its health and flavor benefits are widely known. Cured olives I also enjoy, but honestly are just too salty for me most of the time. Curing them by any process I have ever tried or read about, seems to be not worth the effort to me, especially if done on a small scale. Pressing the oil is a similar affair, and really isn’t practical without a fairly large press machine. For both of these methods, there is also the issue of the olive fly, which infects many olives locally. I don’t know about curing with these, but I certainly have had oil go rancid extra extra quick from pressing these.
So I bike by these olive trees regularly. Some years there are heavy crops, others not so much. But there are tons of olives all around the Bay Area completely unharvested. I usually just think about how we should be using these rather than doing much about it myself. Too bad you can’t just eat them off the trees, right? I remember the first time I tried this, years ago. It was a terrible taste and sensation that makes your mouth scream, “poison!”
But then enter something I heard David Wolfe say. He said that he found these olives super ripe fallen off the tree in an arid area, and left to sort of dry-cure, — get super ripe on the ground. It made me think.
So this winter, I biked past a few trees with olives all over the trail. South facing so extra sun and warmth to keep them from rotting. Because of the trail they were all mostly squashed by traffic, and to be honest, kind of gross and dirty. But I thought, “Why not try them off the tree?” The olives left on the tree were partially dried, and looked similarly super ripe. I tried some from two different trees.
First I want to share with you the color. It was a deep purple, beautiful and screaming “high in antioxidants and flavor.” The oil content was also extremely high, because the riper the fruit the more oil. I could feel the oil on my lips, which was nice as they were getting chapped from biking in the cold. The first one was delicious but the skin was a bit tough and bitter. The olives from the second tree had no bitterness and skin was a nice texture. These even had a hint of fruitiness and sugar! I would say it was in the top 5 best flavor experiences of my life! Something all lovers of food, olives, or olive oil should try!
Urban Trail Foraging: Winter Bike Tour — February 20 2016, Saturday 10am-12 pm (Walnut Creek) $25 — There are a lot of edible plants growing all around our amazing bike trails in the Diablo Valley. I would argue we have some of the best bike trails in the world. And they cut right through a very prime growing environment for many types of plants — many of them edible. Join me on a 5-8 mile bike tour (it’s all paved so road or mountain bike is fine) and discover all the edibles. $25 per person.