Saturday, October 30, 2010

Olives, fruit of the gods ...

What do you do with a gentle slope that overlooks a dry, little creekbed. Well, for us, it seemed like a perfect plot for planting a few olive trees. So, three years ago, after a lot of research, my dear hubby began planting and pampering some young Arbequena olives. And, now we have a lovely, well-established little grove.

While we should have been harvesting a bushel-load of beautiful fruit this month (like that shown a left), we encountered a tropical storm this summer that blew every bit of our first promising yield right off the trees.

Three years ago, we planted six Arbequena olive trees that we purchased from the local grower at Sandy Oaks Orchard.  The Spanish Arbequena is well-suited to our terrain and weather that closely mimics the Mediterannean region of Spain. These olives are mostly grown in Catalonia, but also in Aragon, Andalusia and even Argentina.

As well as being a table olive, Arbequenas have one of the highest oil concentrations - prized for its buttery, slightly peppery flavor.

This past spring, four of our six original trees were loaded with bountiful flowers, followed by an enormous quantity of beautiful fruit. Yes, I did say four out of six. That's because one tree is slow to mature (perhaps from too much shade), and the other tree is a new replacement Arbequena that hubby planted as a result of an over-zealous young buck deer who destroyed the bark on one older tree by rubbing his felt-covered antlers. So, the young tree and its slow neighbor didn't produce the spring show we saw in the other third year growth.

But, I was thrilled at the prospect of a real harvest!  Alas, this summer's weather was an exception, and the eye of a freak tropical storm passed directly through our property, sending our fruit into the wind and uprooting the newly planted tree and its stymied neighbor from the ground.

What a difference a couple of years can make. Just look at how the trees have grown since 2008 (left) to 2010 (right).

The uprooted trees were replanted and staked, and they have seemed to survive with little or no lasting damage. Their height is dwarfed by their 3-year-old brethren, some of the trees now reaching over 12' tall.  I'm just glad the grove remains intact, ready for the respite of cooler months before it's time to set fruit once more.

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