Flavor, sustainability and quality

Mount Zero Olives is a family owned olive grove three hours west of Melbourne on the northern edge of the Grampians National Park.

The Seymour family are committed to sustainable farming and have a passion for quality Australian ingredients. The olive grove is Demeter bio-dynamic certified and the farm practices a holistic and chemical free approach to growing.

In addition to their olives, Mount Zero work closely with local farmers to produce a diverse range of interesting and delicious pulses and grains.

As representatives of Mount Zero's products here in WA, it's been such a pleasure to work with passionate and dedicated producers such a Richard Seymour.

Mount Zero's lake harvested pink salt is an inspiring example of how to celebrate a region's produce while respecting our original land owners.

Richard recently chatted with Louise about his passion for great flavour and the challenges of farming in Australia.

Richard, Neil and Jane Seymour of Mount Zero Olives

The Mount Zero Olive Grove is one of the oldest in Australia. Can you give us an insight into the process you follow to harvest and process the olives? Does the age of the trees change this process?

Our olive grove was planted in the 1940’s in the semi-arid region of the Northern Grampians in Victoria.  Our table olives are handpicked to ensure little or no bruising of the fruit.  They are then put into barrels of brine (salt and water) to naturally ferment according to the traditional Greek method of curing olives.  The fermentation process takes up to 6 months – this slow process ensuring that the bitter tanins are removed without taking away the flavour of the olive.

 

Processing the olives for extra virgin olive oil is much faster; all care is taken to make sure that the fruit is picked to avoid bruising and then processed the same day to ensure the greatest quality of the oil.  After all, extra virgin olive oil is basically a fruit juice, so freshness of the fruit is key.

 

What are you most passionate about, when it comes to working in the food industry here in Australia? What changes have you noticed in the industry over the past decade?

My parents Jane, Neil and myself are passionate about quality, unadulterated Australian produce.  When we started marketing the produce of Mount Zero (over 25 years ago), consumers believed that the best oils, olives and grains were sourced from Europe.  We spent the early years at markets, expos and tastings slowly convincing consumers that Australian produce is often better than the imported equivalent.  The past 10 years the trend towards local provenance has been a very welcome one.

You have a strong partnership with the traditional land owners of the Wimmera region? How did that come about, and what are the benefits?

We have been working with the traditional land owners from the Wotjobaluk nation in the Wimmera to harvest Pink Lake Salt since 2009.  My mother Jane initiated this project and relationship for 2 reasons; 1, because the salt from Pink Lake is delicious and contains a balance of mineral not found in other salts and 2, to recognise, acknowledge and support the traditional owners in our region.  While in the scheme of things this is a very small project, we are hoping to further the relationship and range into other ingredients and plants from the region and harvested in collaboration with traditional owners.

Pink Lake Salt Harvesting

You work closely with many customers who share your ethos. Can you tell us about your Mount Zero Heros?

The growth of Mount Zero can largely be attributed to some of our key customers; chef’s, restauranteurs and retailers who have championed our story on their menu’s and shelves.  We try to acknowledge some of these “hero’s” that we have met along the way, share their stories and recipes.

What is the most challenging aspect of creating your products?

I guess the challenge is consistency.  Consistency with natural products is always a challenge, but this is also the greatest pleasure and excitement – how will this seasons olive oil taste!

Do you have a favourite product from your range, and if so, how do you prepare it or serve it?

I love our organic extra virgin olive oil and the question is how do I not serve it – it goes on everything.  At this time of the year, I love a recipe that came from the guys are Movida restaurant which is a Cordoba classic – Salmorejo.  Similar to gazpacho, salmorejo, uses very ripe tomato’s, bread and a massive amount of olive oil, blitzed up in the food processor and served cold with boiled egg and jamon sprinkled on top.

When you are not eating at home, where do you like to eat?

I love to eat what ever the chefs using our products are serving.  When I am in Melbourne visiting customers my favourite spot for lunch is Miznon – an Isreali café serving amazing pita pockets and whole roasted cauliflowers – drowned in olive oil.  For dinner my 2 favourite restaurants at the moment are side by side Tipo 00 and Osteria Ilaria; Tipo 00 serves the best pasta in Melbourne and Osteria Ilaria is serving amazing Italian dishes.