Olive: olea europea
This graceful evergreen tree is related to the lilac and is easily grown on well drained soil. Olives prefer hot dry summers and cool wet winters - the characteristics of the west coast Mediterranean climate in which they are commonly found. A cool and wet summer will bring on large fruit but it will be lacking in flavour.
Olives can survive in harsh, arid climates but will thrive with a regular watering and some seaweed solution during the warmer months. They are hardy trees with few problems although we lose some fruit to parrots and need to watch for scale in the winter. Olives are frost sensitive but will recover from a mild frost if the damaged material is removed.
Prune olives in late winter or early spring,theybear fruit on the previous season’s growth and adapt well to hedging and espalier and will regrow after the harshest treatment.
The silvery foliage makes the olive an excellent ornamental tree, it provides a good wind break and shelter.
Olive trees do not always grow true to seed and may take up to eight years to produce fruit. Heel cuttings can be taken at the end of summer but need bottom heat to strike. Most garden centres have a good stock of olives arriving with their fruit trees and can help you with a variety to suit your area.
Manzanillo is ripe and ready for pickling when it turns bright green. We are picking olives for oil on May Day this year. We pick mostly Verdale, which is a dual purpose variety and some spicy black Mission. At home I grow the pointed black Kalamatas for pickling.