Filed under: Activities & Attractions, Family Day Trips, Family Weekend Trips, Food Week 2010, Menu Planning & Cooking, Nature & Wildlife
Extra Virgin: Queen Creek Olive Mill, AZ
Located near the base of the San Tan Mountains in Queen Creek’s pastoral community, the Queen Creek Olive Mill is Arizona’s only working olive farm and mill. Here you’ll meet people who are passionate about the artistry of olives.
A stone’s throw from Schnepf Farms, the pistachio-colored structure could, at first glance, pass for a factory. But come closer and you’ll notice the tidy demonstration grove and the fountain courtyard for dining.
The mill is the brainchild of Perry Rea, a Canadian-born former Detroit auto industry exec without former gastronomic or agricultural experience, who moved his family to Queen Creek over a decade ago.
During a recent visit we toured the mill, tasted a few samples, strolled the olive grove, had lunch at del Piero, and perused the bottled Tuscan-style oils that line the mill’s gift shop walls.
During the tour we learned about olive tree varieties, farming and harvesting, the pressing process, and the health benefits of olive oil, and observed how extra virgin olive oil is made the Queen Creek Olive Mill way.
According to Alex Nielson, one of seven tour guides at Queen Creek Olive Mill, the Raes planted more than 20,000 olive trees saplings in the spring of 1997. In the fall of 1997 they planted 10,000 more saplings and in the spring of 1998 an additional 13,000 saplings were put into the ground. The farm now boasts 43,000 young olive trees on 43 acres.
Today, the completely sustainable farm harvests 16 different varieties of olives with the Spanish Mission, Frantio, Grappelo, Pendelino, Maurino, Moraiolo, Coratina, and Taggiasca as the primary varieties planted.
Manager and vice president of marketing, Rob Holmer attributed their success partially to the fact that today’s consumers are better informed and desire to know more about their food and wish to purchase locally grown products.
“Freshness is important to the character of the oil,” Rob Holmer explained, “so, we only pick what we will press the next day, and we start pressing within 24 hours.”
The trees are drip irrigated and the use of pesticides or mold inhibitors are not required as there is no issue with the olive fly or any kind of olive tree molds. Hence our grove is pesticide free, Rob went on to explain.
The two most important factors in the production of a high quality olive oil are the harvest date or fruit maturity and the varietal character.
According to Holmer, deciding when to harvest is a key factor in determining the style of oil produced at Queen Creek Olive Mill. For any given variety there is a very short window of two to three weeks to capture the ideal harvest period to create distinctive oil.
In addition, The Mill sells its own locally produced line of olive oil bath and body products and a variety of other unique products made by local artisans such as honey, nuts, jams and jellies, grilling rubs, coffee, and much more. For the real olive lover, t-shirts that say “Olive You”, “Extra Virgin”, and “I got stuffed at the Olive Mill” are available at the store and online.
The Queen Creek Olive Mill is located 25062 S. Meridian Road, Queen Creek, AZ 85242, three miles south of Ellsworth at the intersection of Combs Road and Meridian.
Hours are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; Saturday 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; and Sunday 8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Tours are $5.
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Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive.
—Pliny (AD 23-79)
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