The things I knew about olives, before we lived in Spain, could be counted on five fingers. Olives with stones or without. Olives stuffed with anchovies. Olives stuffed with almonds. Green olives. Black olives. So here are some facts I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to share with you.
- To grow flowers and fruit, olive trees need a two month period of cold weather with temperatures dropping below 10°C or 50°F; and also a fluctuation between day and night time temperatures.
- There is such a thing as too hot and too dry which inhibit flowering, even though the tree itself is able to tolerate these conditions.
- There is also the problem of too much rain, although olives need rain in the autumn in order to fatten up.
- Olive trees are wind-pollinated. The flowers grow in late spring; there are two types. Perfect [containing both male and female parts] which are capable of developing into the olive fruits; and Male, containing only the pollen-producing parts.
- Fruit setting is often erratic and in some areas, especially where irrigation and fertilization are not practiced, bearing in alternate years is the rule. The trees may set a heavy crop one year and not even bloom the next. This happens around us.
- Not all buds will turn into blossom and subsequently into fruit. Some will become first shoots and then branches which, in turn, will generate new buds. And so the olive cycle is guaranteed.
- Fruit is produced at the tips of the previous year’s growth; so excessive pruning will prevent fruiting though thinning of the crop is recommended.
- The Spanish cure their olives in brine and eat them with a pinch of salt; our neighbours were perplexed by my jars of olives cured and bottled with rosemary, lemon, thyme and chilli.
5 to remember
para que – in order to
polinizado por el viento – wind-pollinated
después – subsequently/afterwards
errático – erratic
perplejo – perplexed