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Oregon Olives

Oregon Olive Oil

Oregon Olive Trees

2012 Cont(1) @ Oregon Olives

Aug 03, 2012


1,425 kilometers of separation


Here is a picture the owner just sent me of the very farthest north olive grove in North America; located on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada:

And here is a new olive grove just put in at University of California's Wolfskill Ranch near Davis, about 1425 km further south.  Looks a lot the same to me!

Aug 08, 2012


Beginning to look like real olive groves!


Kathy's Grove, a row of Frantoio planted Fall 2008:

The Reken Estate, four Leccino olive trees planted Spring 2006.  Sara is holding a AB46 tree that is the same size as those in the ground were, when they were planted:

Aug 16, 2012


Stripping in the heat of the evening...


Low of 68 F last night - that's very hot for us!  Time to strip all the young olive trees of their fruit.  We summer planted 100 new trees at Kathy's Grove that need to be stripped, and of course all the nursery trees need to be stripped too.  And the sooner the better - more energy for the tree for next year.  It does seem a bit of a shame to waste the fruit.  I have thought about trying to make green pickled baby olives (you know, like pickled baby onions.  Haven't heard of anybody doing this with olives, but what the heck), but we are all too busy this year to try:

Aug 17, 2012


Our newest grove


The family just finished planting our summer-time expansion of Kathy's Grove:

As is usual, it looks pretty sparse!  One think you will notice that is different than most other newly planted groves: no drip lines.  We choose to basin irrigate for the first two years, to better establish the trees.  Here is a Carolea looking really nice in it's second year in the ground:

Sept 16, 2012


I'd love to love Arbequina olive trees, but...


the Arbequina fruit are just so small!  Following the same protocol as last year, I picked and weighed some today:


             09.16.12  100 Arbequina olives average 0.54 grams weight


Compared to last year:


             11.04.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.74 grams weight

             10.28.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.69 grams weight

             10.21.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.66 grams weight

             10.14.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.65 grams weight

             10.07.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.62 grams weight

             09.30.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.56 grams weight

             09.23.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.55 grams weight

             09.16.11  100 Arbequina olives average 0.45 grams weight


Interesting: although peak bloom was about two weeks earlier this year than last, the Arbequina size appears to be pretty much just one week ahead of where it was last year.  Good thing that of the hundreds of olive trees we have planted, we have only 5 Arbequina trees!  The only reason I harp so much about Arbequina, is to convince people not to plant them in production groves.  In an "urban homestead" environment, they have a place; but not in a production intent olive grove in Oregon.


On the other hand, the Carolea olives are sizing up very well (see photo below).  These two exceptional ones average about 5 grams each, or more than the weight of nine of the Arbequina.  We definitely want to plant more Carolea olive trees!


Reken Estate 09/16/12: Two Carolea and 100 Arbequina, picked today:

Oct 15, 2012


No rain for 102 days


From July 3 until Oct 11, nary a drop of rain fell here.  In most of the United States, that might be called a drought, but for us Oregon olive farmers it is just another sign that we really do have a Mediterranean climate suitable for growing olive trees!


I ended up "dusting in" the fall cover crop, but I am pretty sure it will all work out OK.  The rains started Oct 12, and may continue for months, as is normal here in the winter.  Here is a picture of Kathy's Grove taken today with the cover crop planted and about an inch and a half of rain so far:

No erosion or runoff so far, and the seeds are already beginning to sprout.  This year seed prices are up (again!), so I chose a simple classic pea/oats mixture.  Oats for biomass and lots of roots to prevent soil erosion, peas to provide nitrogen.


Incidentally, the pinot noir harvest also happened this weekend around here.  A very low key affair this year (which means things went smoothly), if it weren't for the infernal noisemakers the grape growers use it would have been very bucolic.  Ah well, at least olive groves are peaceful quiet places by nature!

Nov 03, 2012


Oregon is not California


Here is a picture taken today of some Leccino olives on a tree brought up from McEvoy Ranch Nursery in April 2012:

And here is a photo taken today of some Leccino growing on a tree that was planted in Kathy's Grove in 2007:

The conclusion I come to is that the real climate difference for fruiting olives between California and Oregon is spring.  Our summers and fall are every bit as suitable for growing olives as is coastal California (where McEvoy Ranch is located), but our slow start to spring sets us back three or four weeks.  And of course our winters are some colder, but I don't think that makes much of a difference when talking olive fruit.


For olive oil, olives are generally harvested no earlier than with a maturity index of 3:

For more information on harvest and maturity index, see:


                                                    Olive Maturity Index


                                                    Harvest Timing


So, the bottom line: it's too early for making olive oil in Oregon.


Unless, of course, you bring up truck loads of olives grown in California.

Nov 05, 2012


Table Olive Harvest - Carolea


This year was warmer than last, but still not as good as say 2009.  We had somewhere around 2350 Growing Degree Days (from the winebusiness folks):

Since this is a "light crop" year, and as the olives are going to struggle to get ripe enough for olive oil before the winter cold makes them unusable, this year we are planning on using most of our olive harvest for table olives.  We will be harvesting by cultivar, as each cultivar ripens enough for green table olives.


The first to reach that phase this year are our Carolea.  Most of our trees are very young, in fact the majority of our trees were brought up from California this year (sad news: the only nursery growing Carolea I am aware of, McEvoy Ranch Nursery, is going out of business as of Dec 31, 2012.  Although we will start propagating Carolea this coming spring, it is unlikely we will have any Carolea for sale before 2014).


We have three different groups of Carolea trees, those planted in 2010, those planted in 2011, and those planted in 2012.  Interestingly, the fruit from those planted in 2011 is still green and hard as rocks (see group in forefront below), and hence are not useable for table olive production (they will come out very woody, which is not a pleasant texture for olives!):

The very biggest Carolea (from the trees brought up from California this year) are of a really nice size.  The largest 10 averaged about 7.6 grams each, as compared to 10 "large" sized Arbequina which averaged 1.1 grams:

We will be processing these olives with The Long Cure (brine cured green ripe olives).  Follow along during the next year:


Making Sicilian-style Table Olives

In the coming years it will be interesting to track this metric, and indeed see if we can predict peak bloom using GDD.


So, harvest season might reasonably be expected to be around two weeks earlier also, if everything else averages out.  Last year (2011), the olives just did not quite get ripe enough even for green table olives, as well as not sizing up very well.  Given that we may well have an extra two weeks in the effective olive growing season this year, I do think our olives will get ripe enough for green table olives in November.  But will they get ripe enough to make a decent olive oil?  Hmmmm… I guess that is going to be too close to call at this point.


But it does tell me that for those of us interested in making olive oil in Oregon, we should be paying especially close attention to ripening dates of the different olive cultivars.  In our short growing climate, we are going to have to have every advantage we can.


I would again recommend that growers strongly think about planting some of the earlier maturing oil cultivars*, and making an olive oil based on those.  Thus and again I would seriously recommend that aspiring olive oil makers consider a blend of Pendolino, Leccino and Picual (the "Dark Horse" field blend that Alexandra Devarenne, noted olive oil taster, gave us).


* Arbequina is a bit quixotic in this part of the world.  Shorter season growing climates are going to produce smaller olives, and last years record of Arbequina size was quite interesting.  Several growers I talked to were like us, and didn't even bother to harvest their Arbequina last year since they were so small...

July 24, 2012


GDD and Harvest forecast


Last year the peak bloom was roughly July 24, at which point we had accumulated somewhere around 766 Growing Degree Days (GDD).


This year peak bloom was around July 10th, or two weeks earlier.  Interestingly, this pretty well matches last years peak bloom when we compare accumulated heat units (from the Wine Business site):

Aug 03, 2012


101 F in a Mediterranean climate zone


Today it is 101 F here, and we have had nary a trace of rain since June.  We are in a Mediterranean climate, almost like California's Mediterranean climate, just a little cooler than the traditional olive growing regions of California.  In the common Koppen climate system, we are considered Mediterranean zone Csb (see map on left):

So, where might those same slightly cooler Mediterreanean Csb climates occur in traditional olive growing regions?  See map on right.  Note this is a climate map, not a map of where olive trees do grow.


So, if one were looking for cultivars that might be more suitable to our cooler climate, some good sources might be trees originally from the south of France; and most interestingly southern Italy, say eastern Campania (Colline Salernitane DOP) or western Basilicata (Colline del Vulture DOP).  Most of the leading cultivars grown there appear to be strictly local (and thus not present in the U.S.); but in the Alto Crotonese DOP just to the south of this area the leading cultivar is Carolea.  Which just happens to be my current favorite olive tree.


Reken Estate, Aug 04, 2012: Carolea olives are starting to size up:

As for us, we are running out of room!  Here is a picture of Kathy's Grove, where we are doing infill planting of our newest cultivars.  It looks like we will top out at around 75 cultivars, which is far as I know is the second largest collection of olive tree cultivars in North America (second only to that at UC's Wolfskill Ranch).

All new groves look like some broomsticks pushed into the ground; it takes a while before one can get a feel for how good they will ultimately look.


Here is our newest grove, an expansion at the Reken Estate, planted two years ago.  Starting to look like a olive grove!


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