Last year, sisters-in-law Jamie de Sieyes and Kim Null took over an 8-acre olive orchard in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the hope of continuing a long olive oil legacy.
The orchard belonged to Chris Banthien, who imported 100 Italian olive trees 25 years ago, and has since grown the orchard to 2,000 trees of various varieties—the majority of which are Italian.
In November, the whole family joined in for a three-week olive harvest to bottle up the perfect tin of local extra virgin olive oil. Every night during the harvest, Wild Poppies moved 4,000 pounds of olives to San Ardo to be pressed, yielding hundreds of pounds of oil that they are selling at the farmers market and the newly opened Companion Bakeshop in Aptos.
Your olive oil is green!
Jamie De Sieyes: Oh yeah! You want that, that’s where all of the antioxidants come from. The greener, the better. As it ages, it turns more golden, but right off the press it’s really green. It’s so exciting for us to see it come off the press—it’s super green, and some of them smell like cinnamon.
Wow, I feel like I know absolutely nothing about olive oil.
Kim Null: We didn’t know anything a year ago, either! It’s definitely been a learning curve.
What’s changed since you took over?
De Sieyes: We have more separate varietals of oil. Chris used to blend all of the olives into one big Tuscan blend oil, which we have, too. But we were just really excited to try different kinds. We have five oils this year, including three blends: the Olio Nuovo, Tuscan Blend and the Banthien named after our mentor. Then we have the single varietals, Taggiasca and Ascolano.
You’ve probably learned so much in the last year.
Null: It’s been amazing to see how helpful the community has been. There are so many individuals who helped us along the way, and they really made a difference in us having a successful year. It was also a great opportunity. We both have young kids, and I looked at it as an opportunity to share with our children. The orchard is close to our houses, so it seemed like too good to be true to pass up.
De Sieyes: Our kids love going to the orchard to climb the trees. Every time we drive by now, my daughter is like, ‘Hi, olives!’