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August 16, 2017

West Terrace Cemetery’s homegrown olive oil

Adelaide Cemeteries Authority’s Robert Pitt wants you to think differently about cemeteries, and he's starting by bringing a piece of them into your kitchen.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Supplied

Cemeteries are underutilised public spaces.

Understandably, they are generally understood to be reserved for the bereaved and for those in mourning, but they are also well-manicured founts of our history, and have more social value than we give them credit for.

Robert Pitt, CEO of the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority, would like us to think differently about our cemeteries, and he’s chosen olive oil as the medium for changing perceptions.

West Terrace Cemetery recently released its 180th anniversary olive oil, harvested from olive trees on the property.

“The issue for us is, as cemeteries, we need to get out there and let people know we’re there, and tell people that there’s more to cemeteries than coming in at the time you’ve bereaved,” Robert says.

“Cemeteries are a repository of cultural and social history, and certainly West Terrace has that… We’ve had over 10,000 people do tours through the cemetery, and again it’s that issue about highlighting and understanding the cemetery, its role, its aesthetics, and I think, being in the CBD too, West Terrace is quite special in that respect.

“I think it gets you thinking about your own mortality as well, and your own life and where you’re at, and it causes a person to reflect. It’s a personal comment, I might add. I think it’s just a worthy thing to do.”

The staff at West Terrace Cemetery harvests the olives, before sending them off to Fleurieu Peninsula Olive Press to be pressed and bottled, finally making their way onto shelves at Jagger Fine Foods in the Adelaide Central Market.

Robert describes the final product as “full-bodied,” and we forgive him for his cemetery humour. He then remarks that Adelaide has a proud history when it comes to its olive oil.

“In 1851, South Australia’s first olive oil got an honourable mention in the 1851 London Exhibition,” Robert says.

“We know the trees date back to the 1860s, and some of the perimeter ones are a bit later, but we’ve got about 60-70 trees throughout the West Terrace Cemetery.”

It’s unlikely you’ve considered a cemetery as a source of local produce, but it’s also unlikely that you’ve recently considered a cemetery at all.

They are a place of tranquil scenery and an opportunity for reflection, so don’t be afraid to visit.

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