Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Olive tree

This post is in honour of Ellada and Mariza and other visitors to my blog from Greece... Kalimera / Kalispera to you all!

In my garden I have ONE Olive tree. I got it "free" from a magazine (I forget which); one of those special offers where you just pay for postage. It is still quite small - only maybe 60cm tall - even though I have had it nearly three years. I have no expectations of ever getting edible fruit from this tree (England is hardly noted for its olive-production capacity, after all). I also know that preparing olives for eating is a bit of a palaver, and not the sort of thing you would attempt unless you had a whole orchard full of trees, but this tree is quite a nice-looking plant which fits in well with the sort of "Continental courtyard" theme of my patio, so I am happy to nurture it. It has long thin elegant leaves which are silvery-grey underneath, borne on pliant, ill-disciplined branches. It has a rather informal, "non-conformist" character. I like it. If I treat it well, it will probably live a lot longer than me.

The olive tree on the patio

Last Winter we had some very prolonged severe weather, during which the temperatures got down to nearly minus 17 Degrees Celsius. My olive tree nearly succumbed. I had sort of assumed that since olive trees can grow in some of the Northern parts of Italy and similar places where it regularly gets pretty cold, my one would be OK. Perhaps mine is of a variety bred for the (normally temperate) UK climate, because it was not happy! Foolishly I left it outside all the time, and it barely survived. It certainly lost most of its leaves, and several of its smaller branches died off. Fortunately, it DID survive and recover, and this year I will be more careful. I have already moved it to a sheltered position next to my water-butt, right up close to the house, which will hopefully provide a bit of extra warmth.

The olive is now sheltering by the water-butt, next to the house

If the temperatures fall really low again this Winter, I intend to put the olive in the garage for a bit. This would not be ideal, since the garage only has one small window and is therefore too dark, but it might be the lesser of two evils.

The olive tree has produced masses of tiny yellowish-white flowers this year, some of which have set fruit - but they're not THAT impressive... Kalamata has nothing to worry about just yet!

Flowers and fruits on the olive tree


  1. Oh yes, Mark,

    I can see olive oil in your future!!

    And your blog pages are a great addition.
    aka Bay Area Tendrils / Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

  2. Thanks so much for your visit to my blog all the way over in East Africa - lovely to 'meet' you & to find your blog, too !


  4. I'm not raising my hopes much just yet. I don't see my olive tree as a food item, but simply an ornamental. Do any of my readers actually have any experience with growing olives for their oil?

  5. We have ten olives. Varieties for oil, because the nurseryman told us they grow faster. But finding somewhere to press a 'tiny' amount of fruit for oil? Ours are planted to soften the driveway, and disappear the neighbours!

  6. Hi "Elephant's Eye"; I've heard that in some parts of the world (e.g. Italy) olive-growing co-operatives exist, in which lots of growers share one press. Sounds a good system. For me though, I think buying the oil is the only option. Actually it is nice to be able to shop around for different brands / types of oil, getting something different each time, just like sampling different wines.

  7. I have never grown olives but have planted two and they are looking healthy and one of them has flowered. However, I was flabergasted the other day when I was looking at a pamphlet about weeds in my area and olives were listed. I assume that means they must grow very well here. I will have to make sure they don't pull up roots and run off into the bush!

  8. Mark, that's very sweet to have a post in our honour. Now, back to olive growing. Olive trees survive even in cold climates as long as they are next to the sea, a lake or a river which protects them from frost. I come from northern Greece (Salonica) and olive trees survive there by the sea front but if you go 6 miles inland you run the risk of losing them from a big frost (-15C) once in a decade. People grow olive trees even here amidst the high mountains but in river valleys at 1000 ft altitude and by the lake formed by the hydropower dam. So do protect it from frost if you want it to survive. You can even cover it up for a better chance.

    As far as olive oil goes here in Greece we collect olives by hand because we have a lot of cheap workforce from immigrants due to a lack of a strict immigration policy. Thus we produce the best quality of course but we can't market it and it is sold in bulk in Italy. Italian olive oil from hand collected olives is a luxury. They usually "hoover" their olives just for the subsidy because wages for the collection are very high.

    As a family of four we consume 70 litres of organic olive oil annualy and no other oil or fat, maybe some butter and it costs about 4 euros/litre bought directly from a producer.

  9. Thanks everyone for your comments on olives - especially the very interesting insight into the economics of olive-oil production contributed by Mariza. If only I could get a litre of organic olive oil for 4 Euros - it's probably about four times as much as that in the UK.

  10. That's how I feel about good quality cream. We get only the UHT version which is quite thin and we can never whip it up to anything decent.

    Greek students returning to UK from their school vacations used to carry 5 litre cans of olive oil in their hand luggage. Once my husband was stopped at the UK customs. Can you imagine their surprise? I am afraid this option is not available anymore with all the current airport restrictions to liquids.

  11. So cool that you got some fruit already. Maybe not enough to fill a bottle but is quite an accomplishment. I hope your olive tree grows well and resist the winter


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