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2013 @ Oregon Olives

Oct 31, 2013

 

Olive trees growing in greenhouses

 

For people living in colder climates, I recommend that olives be grown in heated greenhouses.  One of our tour guests, Richard from southwest of Eugene, was kind enough to provide this picture, showing how it can be done (although this greenhouse is not heated).  He said these olives trees are about 12' tall:

David@OregonOlivesTrees.com

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I really love the greenhouse!  Richard also has some very nice olive trees growing outdoors:

Nov 01, 2013

 

A Day in the Life of an Oregon Olive Farmer IXb - The Olive Harvest

 

Today we all got out and harvested the Picholene olives off of our small collection of young Picholene trees.  Sad to say, some hands are faster than others, and  mine aren't the fastest.  Picking totals:

 

  Carmen  the Gunslinger  4.51 kg  (fastest hands in the West)

  David   the Mule        3.56 kg  (slow but steady)

  Sara    the Songster    1.74 kg  (listens to music while picking)

 

For those of you who want to know how long it took, we averaged about 3 kg/hr per person on these medium sized dual purpose hand picked olives.  A nice productive way to spend an hour or two!

 

10/30/13: Reken Estate, Picholene olives just starting to turn color:

Nov 01 - 15, 2013

 

Days in the Life of an Oregon Olive Farmer Xb - Making Table Olives

 

After culling out ~5% of the Picholene olives, most all for being small, we have around 20 pounds left for processing.  This year, we are moving on to some different cures, in this case we are going to cure the Picholene olives with an authentic "Olives de Nimes" cure.  Just what they use in southern France!  The directions for this cure can be found in "Producing Table Olives" Kailis and Harris, which I must say is a most fine book from down under.  If you are serious about making table olives, you definitely need this book!

 

Nov 05, 2013:  A 5 gallon bucket filled with Picholene olives, curing Olive de Nimes style.  Started on Nov 01, they should be fully processed and ready to eat by Nov 15.

Nov 5, 2013

 

When is the earliest in 2013 to pick Oregon olives to make olive oil?

 

I just saw that McEvoy Ranch down in Petaluma CA started harvesting their own olives yesterday (see McEvoy Ranch on Facebook).  That's Nov 4th, about 3 weeks earlier than normal for them.  Using my standard "We are 3 weeks behind McEvoy" means we should be able to start harvesting Nov 25.  Working the math backwards, last year the olives here first got ripe enough to start harvesting Dec 16, so if we are also 3 weeks earlier this year, the earliest harvest date is also Nov 25!

 

So, Nov 25 is my best guess.  Anybody in Oregon milling olives for oil much before then, especially if they are doing so right now, is just messing with your mind and using olives from California.  The good folks in Dundee do exactly that, bringing up 80 or so tons a year.  Sorry it has to be said; but it has to be said.

 

Also remember, that in reality, the olives themselves determine when they are ready.  If they haven't softened and colored up, and are still deep green and hard as rocks, they aren't ready for milling.  They must soften and start to accumulate oil, before there is any oil to mill out!  For example, our earliest main oil olive tree Leccino is just beginning to soften and color up, while Frantoio and Arbequina are still pretty emerald green rocks.

 

Nov 05, 2013 Reken Estate Leccino olives, getting softer and starting to color up:

Nov 07, 2013

 

The Oregon "Farm Direct Marketing Rules"

 

Have you ever wondered what products a farmer can [legally] sell?  Without being a "licensed and regulated production facility" (which opens a whole can of worms, like zoning approval, separate buildings, warehousing, inspections and fees, fees, fees).  Like at a Farmer's Market, or even say a church bazaar?  Well, until Jan 01, 2012, there were really no legal rules on this subject.  For example, since there was no law against it, I was planning on selling extra virgin olive oil that I made at my home, directly to consumers, without any kind of formal licensing.

 

Well, as of Jan 01, 2012, I can't do that.  Sigh.  Let us get this straight - EVOO would have been near as safe as any food product man has ever made. 100% nothing else added olive oil, as Extra Virgin Olive Oil must be, has never, ever, been found to cause any food illness.  In fact, it has been found to have significant micro-biological control properties.  See the expert level University of California food scientists review of the situation for yourself:

 

                          Microbiological Food Safety of Olive Oil: A Review of the Literature

 

Ah well, that dream is now dust.  So much for an over regulated economy that prevents small business people from starting new businesses, which is the primary job growth engine, of which America sorely needs at this point.  The End is nigh upon us.  End of jeremiad.

 

However, I can, under limited circumstances, make and sell some kinds and some amounts of table olives.  The actual Oregon "OARS" are here:

 

                          Farm Direct Marketing Rules

 

Or, in a more question and answer format:

 

                          Farm Direct FAQ

 

In a nutshell, as pertains to olives, there are two classes of product that can be sold, see 603-025-0225 (1):

- olives having been lacto-fermented to decrease the equilibrium pH of the food to 4.6 or below.

- having a water activity (aw) greater than 0.85 and having been acidified to decrease the equilibrium pH of the food to 4.6 or below.

 

If you choose the latter, you must follow a published or approved process and product formulation.  For olives, I recommend:

 

                          Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling

                          Producing Table Olives

 

For example, in the first reference, the "recipe" for Kalamata-style olives would seem to be valid for Oregon production under this law (acidified), as well the "recipe" for Greek-style black olives in brine (lacto-fermented).  Other recipes in both references, but not all of the recipes, would meet the Oregon laws too.  In my opinion, of course!

 

There are some really quirky rules to this (now you understand why I am growing garlic to add to Kalamata style olives), but it does appear like as best an opportunity as I can find for a small scale farmer (such as myself) to actually make some money off of growing olives.

Nov 10, 2013

 

The Timing of an Oil Olive Harvest I - Criteria

 

So, when is the right time to harvest olives in north-west Oregon for olive oil?  Well, first we need some criteria!  For this series of posts, I am going to follow the Maturity Index style (see the Olive Preduction Manual and the article The Maturity Index) of harvest criteria.  Note this method is relatively simplistic, and in fact the Olive Production Manual itself gives another evaluation of the question based on size of the olive.  Also, this Australian Guide to Efficient Olive Harvesting is perhaps the most thought provoking I have read on the subject, you might do well to read it too.  And from New Zealand we have: Harvest 2010.

 

So, remember, all this olive stuff is new to Oregon, and we will learn our own peculiarities as time goes on.  For now, any method is better than the disinformation currently being circulated by some folks a little north-east of us.

 

So, a Maturity Index (MI) of 2.5 to 4.5 is usually used for olive oil (Olive Production Manual, pg. 161). A color chart is shown in "The Maturity Index"; let us choose for an Oregon criteria a relatively early ripening 3.5 MI that also fairly well matches the 'Mediterranean Rule': "there are no more green olives on the tree and the majority have changed color".

 

The most common American way to harvest, is to do one clean sweep through the orchard picking it all at once.  This method is recommended by California growers such as Ridgely Evers of Da Vero.  The second main method, more popular in other parts of the world like the southern hemisphere, is to pick each cultivar as it reaches the desired maturity.  There are other methods, such as the European one of just letting the fruit harvest themselves (dropping into nets), but for this first pass answer to the question, I am only going to consider the "Clean Sweep" harvest and the "Varietal Harvest".

 

Last thing to consider, is that most groves intended for olive oil are planted with a mixture of varietals, if for no other reason than it is easier to make a good olive oil with a mixture of varietals than it is to make a single varietal olive oil.  For illustrative purposes, I will be using pictures of a hypothetical "Tuscan Grove" planted with a field mixture of 100 olive trees:

 

                                                    60% Leccino

                                                    30% Frantoio

                                                    10% Pendolino

 

I.e. our "Tuscan for the North field blend", with each olive representing one tree, or one percent of the olives.

 

 

Nov 10, 2013

 

The Timing of an Oil Olive Harvest II - Varietal "A" Harvest possible

 

Since almost by definition a varietal [partial] harvest can occur before a clean sweep [all at once] harvest, that is the first possible harvest point.  Here are today's Tuscan Blend pictures.

 

Nov 10, 2013 Reken Estate, from top left, clockwise - Pendolino, Leccino, Frantoio:

My MI style evaluation of the three cultivars:

 

                  Pendolino  3.5

                  Leccino    2.3

                  Frantoio   1.75

 

Today, I think our Pendolinos are the first cultivar we have that could be harvested.  Not only do they meet the Mediterranean Rule, not only are they of an MI the same as our Oregon harvest criteria (MI = 3.5), but they are soft and juicy enough to contain olive oil and be mill-able.

 

As for the Leccino and Frantoio, ah, we are not yet there.

 

By the way, the fact that Pendolino is the first to ripen up is consistent with previous years here, for example see the olive size [and color] comparison chart here:

 

                                       OregonOliveTrees

 

As it so happens, that photo was taken exactly two years ago today, in a cooler year.

 

Here is a photo of all 100 olives randomly mixed together.  I rate this as a MI of about 2.3:

 And below is the MI style breakdown and calculation:

 

                  Index 1:   5 x 1 =   5

                  Index 2:  68 x 2 = 136

                  Index 3:  18 x 3 =  54

                  Index 4:   9 x 4 =  36

                  ----------------------

                           100       231  ~MI = 2.3

Also, please notice how clean and unblemished these fresh Oregon olives are.  If you see anything that looks relatively beaten up and "aged", well, just another clue those olives have been imported from California.

 

By the way, this problem is not limited to Oregon.  From my California contacts, the good olive people in Texas also import California fruit, and try to pass it as Texas grown.

 

Sigh.

Additional information for you hard core types.

 

I did cut open all of the Index 4 olives (see right) to see if any of them were index 5.  No luck, although one (third from the top) did have red juice.

 

The olives I picked weighed in at 190 grams (1.9 g per fruit).  Remember we are not really ready to pick any but Pendolino; though of course the smaller the olives the more work of the harvest.

 

As a sanity check, I had Carmen pick 100 fruit following the same methodology as I did, and I did the evaluation (2 different pickers, 1 grader) and came up with an MI style number of 2.4 for her field picked Tuscan for the North.

 

Results can and will vary; your results can and will vary even more.

Reken Estate, Nov 10 2013: Maturity Index 4 Pendolinos from the east side of the tree.

Carmen has not such a facts oriented mind, but more one of an artist.  Here is her visualization of todays ripeness.

 

Nov 10, 2013 Reken Estate, clockwise from left: Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, Maurino

Our Community Milling Day is Sunday Nov 24, 2013 at 10 AM

 

See the details at:         Oregon Olive Oil

Kathy's Grove Nov 29, 2009: picking MI 4 Leccino, hopefully this year will get as ripe!