Oregon Olives 

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Oregon Olives

Oregon Olive Oil

Oregon Olive Trees

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Mar 13, 2014


Reasons to prune: #1


I like to prune.  But that isn't good enough to actually make me do some pruning - there has to be a good reason to do so.  I have two grafted Kalamata trees where the rootstock has suckered.  I have been using these to demonstrate the facts to people on tours, but we aren't going to be touring this grove any more.  So, time to prune the sucker!


March 13, Kalamata olive tree at the Reken Estate.  See that the left side has clearly different leaves?  That's the rootstock sucker.

And now it's gone, all that is left is Kalamata:

Here are my pruning tools (see below).  I find the root saw (third from top) particularly valuable for large hard to reach cuts deep in the trees.  Which is to say, the majority of the type of pruning I do.

Mar 16, 2014


Labeling 101


Carmen designed the labels for our bottles of olive oil - time to do the final [consumer] bottling!  Remembering that we are giving the EVOO away, and that finding true 100% Oregon grown olive oil is almost as rare as a Bigfoot sighting, we decided to use relatively low capacity 60 ml and 250 ml bottles.  The smaller bottle is maybe a little more than 4 tablespoons and is probably appropriate to use for something like one dish for four people.  Not a lot but definitely enough to still share.  The 250 ml bottles are enough to experiment with a couple or four dishes, maybe even some group slurping.


The olive oil is essentially racked off the sediment, after a couple of months of gravity filtering.  See below for more details on this (actually, probably you have to click a link to get to the next page by now).


Also notice that we are using clear glass bottles.  People are interested in seeing the color of an olive oil, and it does matter, so the heck with what all the busybody experts say - we went with clear.  I mean, come on, these quantities are so small they are going to be used up very quickly by anybody who would appreciate getting them, and thus any reasonable logic to use dark colored bottles disappears.  For instance, there are three different selections of olive oil here - can you tell that the center oil is more golden, even in this crummy snapshot?  Product differentiation is a must, especially since one of these years we intend to make more than 20 different olive oils!  We are radical country folk, On The Edge and forward leaning!

And as always, even on sample bottle (maybe especially on sample bottles!), the harvest date is a must.  Insist on it for the olive oil you buy - anything less (bottling date or "use by" date) are merely an attempt to sell you an olive oil that is not as fresh as it should be.

Mar 20, 2014


Yea!  Spring is here!


And what could be finer than a bowl of fresh picked Oregon grown Owari Satsuma mandarins!


Not much to do with olives, but hey, life isn't just all about olives, is it?  And maybe someday OregonOlives will morph to OregonSubtropicals.


The farthest north outpost of Fresno County, CA!

Mar 30, 2014


Yea!  The new AB46 size olive trees are here!


Since we are worried about real and potential damage to our wintered over olive tree stock, we have brought up new trees from California to sell.


This is them!  We are open for sales April 1st: by appointment, by mail order and by coming to one of our April Farm Gate Sales Days.  See www.OregonOliveTrees.com for more details!

Mar 28, 2014


Still too early to fully assess winter tree damage


I have received several emails this week from people who want to start pulling up their "dead" olive trees  which have dropped their leaves, and start planting new ones.


Well, right about now the winter cold damaged trees will indeed be looking their worst.  But my guess is that many of them are not actually dead, although looking that way, and will start to re-sprout in the next two months.  So, my advice is to wait until at least June if not July to make your assessments.


That said, there is a reason to buy olive trees now.  Not only is April / early May the best time to plant olive trees, the availability will probably decrease as the next month goes by.  Olives are grown "on speculation" not "on order", so it is hard for the growers to exactly match supply and demand.  And since the cost of unsold or un-sellable trees come directly out of the growers profits, the tendency for growers is to make sure they don't end up in over supply.  Much better to end up sold out.


So, if you are one of those people who knows exactly want you want, and what you want looks to be thinly traded, mayhap it's best if you bought at least some of your olive trees now.


Or, of course, you could also make the judgment call that you want to replace your winter blasted leafless small size trees regardless.  And that might well be a wise decision: olives like all evergreen trees store most of their energy in their leaves.  So, in particular, any tree that is right now leafless with a trunk diameter of less than 1/2" is probably not going to start re-growing anyway, and might easily be surpassed in growth by a new vigorous tree even if it still is alive.


You can use the old tried and true "scratch test" to see if a olive tree is still alive: take a pocket knife and gently scrape away the top layer of wood.  If your scraping reveals green (cambium layer), then the tree is still alive.  However remember that olive trees can and do re-sprout from the roots after severe damage, like from cold or fire, so even if your olive tree fails the scratch test, it may still re-grow from the roots.

Mar 30, 2014


What to do with winter damaged trees?


I received an email this Thursday from Texas, asking what to do about their winter cold damaged olive trees that were starting to grow vigorous suckers from the base, as well as beginning to sprout along the old central leader.  I looked at the weather - 86 F in Bastrop TX!


So, although it is too early for re-growth to start here, it still might be a good time to share the answer I sent her.  After all, the northern states aren't the only "On The Cold Edge" places where olive trees are being tried.


So, without further ado, here is my answer to her question:


"Ahhhh... cold, re-growth, pruning, tree form all tied together... bear with me for a bit.  It's all a bit holistic...


Olives are "basitonic", which means they want to re-grow from the base of the tree, or from the base of where wound damage has occurred.  This is especially true once "apical dominance" (apex dominant growth) has been curbed, like say by the top of the tree / branches being destroyed by cold damage.


Further, given these facts and the fact of cold damage has occurred, the obvious pruning strategy is to prune to a bush vase shape.  This is very much like pruning any other fruit tree to a vase, except for the olive tree the vase is on the ground utilizing those very same new basitonic limbs (call them suckers if you will).


In climates on the [cold] edge, my thought is we must go with Nature.  We must accept the fact that cold damage is going to occur, and make sure we take advantage of it.  In this case, cold damage helps us shape the olive tree into the bush vase form, which is exactly what we desire!  Silver lining in the clouds and all that.  So, turn this winter's cold damage to your advantage.  Those [sucker] basitonic shoots ARE your new olive tree.  So don't be pruning them!  Call it a multi-trunk tree, and all your neighbors will be envious of your beautiful grove.


So, bottom line, if you accept all this and it fits into your pruning strategy and spacing strategy (which ties you into just about everything else in you olive growing strategy!  Like watering and weed control and harvest strategies), you don't care if that central leader grows back or not - as you would be pruning it out after a while anyway.  Maybe you even want to prune it out now, so the tree doesn't waste any energy growing there.


On the other hand, if you have followed different strategies that don't allow for a bush vase form, ahhh, you are on your own and should have read my web site first (<grin>)."

April 15, 2014


Clone names and clone games; DNA testing


We recently received an email strongly chiding us to do DNA testing to correctly identify all of our olive tree cultivars.  A noble thought, but a bit misplaced.  In an ideal world, there should perhaps be repositories of plant genetic material (e.g. the U.S. Clonal Germplasm Repository for olives in Wolf Creek, CA).  Their accessions should be tracked by DNA testing, and then made available to nurseries such as ourselves to propagate and sell.


Such DNA testing has only started.  In fact, it quickly became apparent that the repository didn't even really understand what it had!  "YAM" was the word, short for "yet another Manzanillo".  Or Mission.  Or?

An interesting question: is Mission a valid cultivar name?  Or is it just a New World synonym for Cornicabra?


Part of the problem is the fact that, for example, there is not just a single Manzanillo cultivar.  There is almost certainly a very close knit grouping of trees, with slightly but not overwhelmingly different DNA, that are all called Manzanillo.


The same is true for most all other olive trees (Barnea is a rare exception: it is a result of an Israeli breeding experiment, code named K-18; and even there, there is confusion at the repository about whether their Barnea is actually Kadesh!).  We ourselves have not only been collecting olive tree cultivars, we have been collecting clones too.  For example, here is a row of Frantoio, with the front three trees being different, ahhh, "clones".


April 10, 2014: Kathy's Grove, a comparison of olive tree clones.

April 15, 2014


Crop circles, or another reason to space olive trees sufficiently far apart.


Here is an interesting picture, taken April 10.  Note that each olive trees has a circle of bare land around it!  Also note that the green cover crop was spun on with a spin spreader, which should have put a lot of cover crop seed at the drip line and slightly underneath the tree.  What happened?


Well, what I think is that the ground water under and around the olive trees had all been sucked up this past summer, and that the fall rains came so late that the ungerminated cover crop in the dry soil got too cold and rotted when the rains did eventually start.

April 22, 2014


What's the buzz? Tell me what'sa happening?!


An interesting conversation happened this Saturday.  I was talking with a customer of ours, who happened to mention that she had just been to the Dundee Hills olive agro-tourisimo operation, to ask about possibly planting a commercial grove.  Here is how that conversation was related to me:


Customer: "We are thinking about putting in a commercial olive grove…"


Dundee operation's store clerk: "You don't want to do that - olives don't grow commercially in Oregon."


Customer: "But don't you have thousands of olive trees planted?"


Clerk: "That's just for the tourists."


Customer: "Don't you sell olive trees?"


Clerk: "Not for commercial plantings; just to plant a few around your house."


Well, heya.  Since I do believe olive trees can be grown commercially here in Oregon, I decided to drive over today and check out their main olive grove off of Hwy 99, where the vast majority of their olive trees are planted.


April 22, 2014: Dundee Hills olive grove carnage:

For those of you who don't get it: olive trees are evergreen, except when events of extreme duress have occurred.  My guess is that most all of these trees are dead.


So, now I understand the conversation.  I guess if I had 13,000 trees that looked totally dead, for the third time in six years, I guess I might say olive trees couldn't be commercially grown in Oregon too.


Nah.  Not me.  I'm too honest.  I'd just admit I didn't know what I was doing, and go look at some thriving olive trees planted not more than 20 miles away in the Amity / Eola Hills!


April 22, 2014: Dundee Hills closer up, not a green leaf to be seen:

For us the results of this winter give us a time to reinforce success, and punish failure.  Where the cultivars that aren't well adapted to our climate have died, we will be replanting with the cultivars that are well adapted.


It's not rocket science.  But the process we went through does assume one doesn't think they are experts from the get go.


April 22, 2014: some proven Amity / Eola Hills, Reken Estate olive trees.  Lotsa olive-green leaves!

Note that the first [cold sensitive] Frantoio clone, i.e. the first tree in the row, has been killed by this winter's storms, as expected.  The second (and the fourth) tree in the row are the "standard" cold hardy Frantoio clone we sell.  And the third tree?  Well, I don't believe it is even Frantoio at all, rather I think it is really Coratina (sold as Frantoio, from yet a third California nursery)!


Note that the first (dead) tree is from a very fine establishment, McEvoy Ranch (whose olive tree nursery is now defunct).  I distinctly remembered a conversation I had with their nursery manager, Samantha Dorsey, a very knowledgeable Californian.  But about half an hour into a conversation on cold hardiness, I had to stop the conversation and point out that while I was talking about cold hardiness of the olive tree, she was talking about cold hardiness of the olive fruit!  Two very different things, and apparently she had never had olive trees get so cold as to show damage to the trees themselves!


The moral of this clone game story?  Be very careful who you trust.  Lotsa games going on out there; lotsa really nice people getting themselves outside of their locality of expertise.  Trust olive trees in the ground the most.  And last; always, always keep in mind: Oregon is not California.

Note these trees have only been in the ground about seven years, and are spaced at a 20' hexagonal pattern, and yet are already sucking near all the water out of the land wherever three really good trees are growing.  Think twice before spacing your trees too tight!  Even in our [present] climate, water[ing] may well be a big issue!  For full growth and productivity, table olive trees require about a meter of water a year, either supplied by nature or by you (olive trees for oil can be deficit irrigated to some extent).

June 1, 2014


The facts; and just the facts.


A lot of people have been asking how the olive trees did last winter.  While it is still probably a little early to determine what is dead and what isn't (as some of the seemingly dead trees are still sprouting from the base), here is what it looks like today: 22% of our olive trees died last winter.  But 78% didn't.


No analysis at this time - just wanted to get the data out there.  Seems to me the next step is to compile the fate of all the trees I have ever planted - and then talk about what the best cultivars are for Oregon.

May 31, 2014


The very first Oregon grown avocado fruit?


This year, for the first time, I was able to over-winter both avocado trees and some avocado fruits!  As best I know, these are the very first Oregon grown avocados.  Yamhill County, OR: A good place to grow!


Hass on Toro Canyon rootstock:

Lamb Hass, also on Toro Canyon rootstock:

June 09, 2014


Leading olive cultivar in full bloom.


Verdale, a French cultivar, leads the rest of the olive trees to full bloom today.  Most of the rest of our cultivars have yet to see a single flower bud burst, but as usual for us Verdale is the first to hit full bloom.


June 09, 2014, Reken Estate Verdale:

Oregon Lavender Festival


Carmen of Oregon Olive Trees will again be at Lavender Lake Farms July 12th and 13th, 2012; selling our olive trees from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Come out and see Oregon's largest lavender farm, enjoy all things lavender, and go back home with some olive trees to boot!  Follow either of the two links above to find out more about this event!

July 13, 2014


Winter damage on surviving olive trees


Of course, just because olive trees survived the winter, does not mean that they are all undamaged (see June 1, 2014 below for the assessment of dead trees).  Here is my ranking of winter damage amongst the survivors, by cultivar, of the older trees (planted 2010 and before):


Light to no damage: Aglandau, Amfissa, Ascolano, Cailletier, Carolea, Coratina, Frantoio, Itrana, Leccino, Maurino, Lucca, Manzanillo, Noccelara de Etna, Picual, Taggiasca, Santa Caterina, Tanche, Verdale.


Medium Damage: Arbequina, Bouteillan, Chetoui, Ouslati, Moraiolo, Pendolino, Hoji Blanca, Nocellara del Belice,


Heavy damage: Empeltre, Kalamata, Picholene,


This is my subjective, averaged opinion.  Note there is not a one-to-one correlation between the list of the dead and this list.  For example, Kalamata trees had excellent winter survivability (perhaps due to being grafted onto Leccino or Frantoio rootstock), but none-the-less took heavy damage this winter.

July 13, 2014




My garden this year is a pot garden - lots of citrus, avocado, pomegranate, fig, pear and persimmon. And about 800 olive trees (not shown), of course!  I am having problems keeping them all watered and fertilized...