Monday, February 2, 2009

Queen Creek Olive Mill, Queen Creek, Arizona

Queen Creek Olive Mill is a working olive mill and farm about 25 miles east of Phoenix. We didn’t know about the olive mill while staying in Apache Junction last week, but it was a short (30 minute) drive form Casa Grande, so we decide to go today. The Olive Mill is open 8-5 M-F, 8-5 Saturday and 8-4 Sunday, and offers tours every hour on the half hour for $5 per person. We arrived in time to grab lunch at their bistro, which specializes in items made with olives, olive oils and tapenades made from their olives. We both enjoyed the turkey sandwich, and it was a good base in which to try their many oils, olives and spreads from their tasting bar. Brad enjoyed their various olives, especially their Tuscan Spice Balsamic Olives, while Suzanne favored the Roasted Garlic Olive Oil.

We decided to take the tour which began with an explanation of the various types of olives (Queen Creek uses mission olives) and olive oils - from pumice oil (made from the byproduct when pressing the olives for the oil) to extra virgin olive oil (made from the first pressing of the olives). We also learned that late harvest olives, which are darker, are form the tops of the trees (which take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to mature) and the early harvest olives (the greener ones) are from the lower branches of the trees. The tour then proceeded inside to the pressing room where we learned about how olives are harvested, pressed, and bottled. We missed the pressing, but if you’re here in the fall (September – November), you can see the pressing in action.

We were surprised at how much we learned – including the fact that Arizona is a prime location for olive growing due to the hot days and cool nights, inhospitable conditions for the olive moth (therefore no pesticides are needed), and a dry climate.

If you’re in the area, definitely go to Queen Creek Olive Mill – and be prepared to bring home some good treats. We enjoyed our olives and olive oil tonight with some wine! Yum!

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