Isabelle Ortiz Martinez wasn’t always an olive aficionado. It was only after a trip to visit her sister in Germany in the 1990s that she developed a taste for the fruit, and an understanding of how tasty olives could be.
“Previous to that [trip], anybody asking if I wanted an olive, I’d say, ‘Are you kidding? … You might as well open a packet of salt and just pour that down your throat,’” she laughs.
But after being introduced to a different kind of olive – not the overly salty, briny kind she’d known before – everything changed.
“When I realized what an olive really should be, I became completely addicted,” she says.
Since then, Ortiz Martinez has made it her life’s work to spread the gospel of olives. When she returned to Edmonton, she began trying to piece together the European experience that had opened her eyes. She developed a few recipes that she loved, and decided to test the waters by selling them at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market.
On her first day, she sold out.
“So I realized there’s more people out there that want what I do,” she says.
That was more than 20 years ago, and Ortiz Martinez’s olive empire has been growing strong ever since. Over the years, she’s developed over 50 flavours. There are traditional garlic- or Feta-stuffed varieties, as well as what Ortiz-Martinez calls her “dessert” flavours: like one with fig sauce, cashew and cranberries, or seasonal flavours like rum-soaked cherries.
Ortiz Martinez has fun with product development, and it shows. She’s constantly looking to find new flavours, inspired by new tastes and ingredients she comes across in her daily life.
“We’re just kind of trying to feel our way through how we can get our olives to as many people as possible,” she says. “My goal is to create a flavour profile that just hits all the points you’re craving.”