2010 @ Oregon Olives

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Oct 20, 2010


Pinot noir and green ripe olive harvest time  The wine grape growers are finally getting their harvest in - what the birds didn't get, at least.  The starlings launched the longest battle for the grapes that I can recall this year, I guess a reflection of the long slow ripening season and a difference of opinion as to when pinot noir is ripe.

We wish the wine grape growers the best for their harvest, but of course we olive growers don't have any bird problem at all.  Neither here nor in California to the best of my knowledge.

Since pinot noir is widely grown on land suitable for olives, it may be of interest to people contemplating planting olives to compare the times of their local grape harvest and how ripe olives might be at that time.  All pictures taken today.

Although the Tuscan cultivars have historically been used for olive oil, recently people like McEvoy Ranch have been making them into table olives.  Last I talked to them, they were making about eight tons a year and selling all of them with not much except word of mouth advertising (hear that, you budding Oregon entrepreneurs?).  Right now is about the perfect time to pick them for green ripe table olives: well sized, firm with a solid green color.

Leccino olives, Kathy's Grove:

Pendolino olives, Kathy's Grove:

Frantoio olives, Kathy's Grove:

Although not from Tuscany, Coratina is often blended in with Tuscan cultivars to improve the quality of olive oil.  In a "normal" year, they are fairly large and could well be used for green ripe table olives.  This year there are so many of them they aren't sizing up well.  With problems like that, one doesn't really have problems!  Just grind them up for olive oil!

Coratina olives, Reken Estate:

And maybe just a couple more photos.  Carolea is from Calabria, the "boot heel" of Italy.  A new cultivar for us; so far so good!

Carolea olives, Reken Estate:

And of course the most widely planted olive in the new millennium: Arbequina.  In Spain Arbequina is made into a brownish-green, nutty tasting table olives.

Arbequina olives, Reken Estate:

And just to show we aren't even close to the bottom of the barrel, here is Oueslati.  Which has recently been revealed to be a Manzanillo clone by DNA testing.

Oueslati olives, Reken Estate:

Oct 20, 2010


Great minds think alike  I just received this photo in the email, so I thought I would post it.  Scott Mackison (owner of Shooting Star Nursery in Central Point, OR) sent it to me, along with the notes that the plastic containers are full of Arbequina, and the ceramic bowl is of Aglandau and Itrana; and that the olives are from trees he is growing in Central Point, OR.  You know the old expression: "When it comes time to make green olives, people start making green olives!"; and that is what Scott is going to do.

Scott is an "early adopter", as is said in techSpeak; he was present at the first ever public seminar in Oregon on growing olive trees and making olive oil.  That was, oh, all of a year and a half ago...

Arbequina, Aglandau and Itrana olives; Central Point OR:

Nov 18, 2010


Kathy's Grove update: Frantoio clearly better adapted to Oregon  Kathy's Grove is our experimental production grove of Tuscan cultivars. At the time it was planted (Fall 2008) there were only two models to follow: the Tuscan groves of coastal northern California (think McEvoy Ranch and DaVero), or the SHD projects in the hot central valley of California (did you know that Redding is the hottest city of it's size in the entire world at 40 N or higher latitudes?).  So, naturally, not being in a particularly hot place, for our first production grove we chose Tuscan cultivars.  Since Pendolino trees were unavailable at the time, we chose a nominal field blend of 50% Leccino, 25% Frantoio, 13% Maurino and 12% Moraiolo.  For reference, DaVero recommends 50% Leccino, 25% Frantoio, 15% Maurino and 10% Pendolino.  We added Moraiolo based on the fact that it is much more common in olive oil from the real Tuscany (see Quest-Ritson).

Grove details: 2 gallon sized olive trees were planted on a 20 foot hexagonal pattern in Sept and Oct 2008. The land had 4 tons of lime per acre and additional nutrients per soil test added, as well as being cover cropped for a year.  The trees have been dry farmed since the day after they were planted, having received 2 gallons of water each on planting day. 

Precise numbers of trees planted and those still alive since planting (a few were killed by my tractor driving, a few by gophers, but the vast majority of dead trees were killed by winter cold):

          Planted   Survivors

Leccino     150      96  64%

Frantoio     84      72  86%

Maurino      31      19  61%

Moraiolo     23      13  57%

Conclusions: Frantoio is significantly more adapted to surviving under Oregon winter conditions than the other cultivars trialed (and which are not statistically different from one another).  What is so funny about this: Californians to a person believe Frantoio is very susceptible to winter cold.  Those Californians - what a funny bunch!

What would we do different next time?  For sure, I would plant in the spring rather than the fall!  As for varietal selection, it is too soon to tell; yields and quality of the olive oil need to be known before we can answer that question.  However, it is interesting to note that McEvoy Ranch's field blend is 50% Frantoio and 25% Leccino.  And that McEvoy Ranch is probably one of the coolest olive groves in California…

Kathy's Grove: looking up the rows: a row of Frantoio on the left and Leccino on the right:

Nov 20, 2010


"Olive Oil" by Quest-Ritson  I just love this little book - lots of information on what cultivars are planted where, and notes on the olive oils they produce.  Here is an interesting quote:

"Three main types of oil are made and sold in California.  The most popular are the Tuscan copycats made from Leccino and Frantoio olives, though it may be argued that these cool climate olives will never give a proper Tuscan-style olive oil in the hotter climate of northern California".

Hmmm… and just what state is directly north of northern California, and definitely cooler?  That would be Oregon, wouldn't it??

Nov 21, 2010


Last farmer in the field  The grapes are long gone, the Christmas tree harvest is just done, even the other local olive groves have been picked.  A cold front with masses of arctic air is supposed to be moving into the area and bringing snow in a couple of days.  But the olives are still very green.  And each day the olives continue to hang on the trees, day by day, the olives continue to ripen.  Slowly, surely, inevitably. 

What to do?  Grit our teeth and start picking, of course!  Olives (the fruit) freeze and become spoiled around 28 F, depending on solids and oil content.  The forecast for the 23rd (Tuesday) is for lows down to 20 - 25 F, so it looks prudent to get the fruit out of the field.  We in Oregon are going to have to get used to gritting our teeth and "just doing it"; so far in about half the years we would have liked to wait substantially longer to harvest. 

Pendolinos are always the first to "color up" here, last year the Pendolinos were almost as black as our black cat Rosie.

Reken Estate 11/20/10:

Much more typical right now are these Coratina:

More and more we are liking Nocellara del Belice; they are coloring up ahead of almost all others.  A good decision that our second experimental production grove is Nocellara del Belice!

This just shows how fast the world moves these days: I can fairly positively say that there are probably as many or more Nocellara del Belice olive trees planted in Oregon as in California, it being a relatively new production cultivar in the U.S.  Olive oils from Sicily made with Nocellara del Belice are winning awards at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition.


Watch out California!  Oregon is in the passing lane!! (<grin>)

Nov 23, 2010


The 2010 Olive harvest is done!  We got most of the olives out of the fields yesterday.  A good thing too, it snowed and got down to 20 F last night.  Which make any olives still hanging on the trees defective; known appropriately as the "frosted" defect.

This afternoon: olive milling time.  Our first time doing this!  Do we know what we are doing?  Can we understand the rudimentary milling instructions in Italian?  We shall find out soon enough!

Here is one of the few trees we didn't get to, an Arbequina trained SHD style, complete with snow.

Reken Estate:

Dec 04, 2010


Greener than green  Another year for green olives.  Green as grass?  See what you think!  All pictures taken Nov 23, 2010







Nocellara Del Belice




Here are the yields off of the very best tree of each cultivar that we have had for four years.  All trees were field planted in 2006 as 4" potted plants.  All summer long I thought a Coratina tree was going to be the highest yielding, but that turned out to be wrong:


Pendolino  6 1/2 pounds

Coratina   6

Arbequina  5 1/4

Leccino    5

Picual     1 3/4

Frantoio   1 1/2

Maurino    1 1/2


As for size of fruit, for those interested in table olives, I took a sample of 100 grams of fruit to come up with the following average weights rounded to the nearest tenth of a gram:


Arbequina             0.9 grams

Coratina              1.2

Frantoio              1.2

Maurino               1.4

Pendolino             1.4

Leccino               1.6

Lucca                 1.8

Kalamata              1.9

Carolea               1.9

Picual                1.9

Picholene             1.9

Nocellara de Etna     2.0

Itrana                2.3

Nocellara del Belice  2.4

Amfissa               3.6


There is quite a bit of size variation in the larger sized cultivars, here is a visual "size grading" done on some Amfissa (see right).  Also note: the smaller, the riper.

Dec 05, 2010


The facts, just the facts I get a lot on inquires that focus around putting together a business plan for growing olives and making money.  In general, I shy away from that, saying we don't even know what numbers to put in a business plan.  Take yields for example.  What number do you want to use?  One guess is probably as good as another, as nobody has had enough trees for long enough to give any kind of precise answer.  So, given that lead in, use these numbers with discretion!


To contact us:

This is in general true of all of our cultivars.  This suggests the obvious: high grade off the larger olives for green table olives, and use the smaller more ripe fruit for olive oil.

Here is another visualization of the size differences in our cultivars; an olive pinwheel:

From the smallest to the largest: Verdale, Arbequina, Coratina, Frantoio, Pendolino, Leccino, Lucca, Maurino, Picual, Oueslati, Kalamata, Picholene, Carolea, Nocellara del Etna, Itrana, Ascolano, Nocellara del Belice, Bouteillan, Amfissa, Santa Caterina, Santa Caterina (with freeze damage).

Dec 06, 2010


Another year done We did make olive oil, but that story is over at Oregon Olive Oil  We had to pick earlier than I wanted: yet another blizzard rolled into the area in late November.  Sigh.  I guess that is just life in Oregon, growing olives on the edge!


May we all have fair weather, and may the boots not get sucked off our feet by mud next year!