Olive tree in the garden - when to harvest the first olives?

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Olive tree - Olea europaea

If the olive tree in the garden is given a full sun, warm location, it presents its first flowers within 7 to 8 years after planting. If it is a self-pollinating Olea variety, the first olives will not be long in coming. Now the question of the right harvest date in the room, because of the quality of the olives depends significantly. A glance at the calendar helps only to a limited extent. Read here, which criteria you can use to make an informed decision on the perfect time for your first olive harvest.

Flowering time defines the time frame

Established empirical data prove that an olive tree blossoms after the first 7 years to the first painter. This is true on the premise that the Mediterranean plant benefits from a species-appropriate location and expert care. Young plants from the nursery are mostly 3 to 4 years old, so you only have to wait a few years until the first flowering.
The local light and temperature conditions determine exactly when the buds unfold. North of the Alps, the time window extends from the end of April to the end of June. In the mild climate of the wine-growing regions or along the Lower Rhine, an olive tree is already in full bloom at the sunny spot in May. Therefore, the time window for the harvest opens here several weeks earlier than on the western border of the Black Forest or on the Baltic Sea coast. Here, the flowering period sometimes shifts into July, which results in a corresponding later harvest time.

Self-fertile, hardy varieties are an advantage

When purchasing an olive tree from a specialist retailer, please ask if it is a self-pollinated variety. Popular premium varieties, such as Arbequina, are not only hardy to - 11 degrees Celsius, but also form hermaphroditic flowers. If the flowering tree is in the garden, the pollination does not require any horticultural intervention, because the wind takes over this task. By placing at least 2 olive trees in close proximity to each other, the harvest yield increases due to cross-pollination.
Tip: Just before flowering, an olive tree should not suffer from drought and nutrient deficiencies. Otherwise, the number of flowers is reduced, which at the same time drastically reduces the yield of olives.

From flowering to olive

Following fertilization, the yellowish-white flower turns into a stone fruit. This is spherically shaped and has a diameter of 1 to 2 cm, with a length of 1 to 4 cm. The hard core is surrounded by soft pulp that is rich in various bitter substances. The process from fertilization to ripe fruit extends into the autumn and winter.

Indicators for the harvest date

During the summer, the first drupes grow on your olive tree. These are small, green, very firm and far from an edible maturity state. Now be patient until the following indicators indicate that the harvest can begin:
  • The olives have changed color from green to red-violet or black
  • The pulp gives way to pressure
  • The darker the color, the milder the aroma
If normal weather conditions prevail, olives in the Central European climate will reach the desired degree of ripeness at the earliest from the middle of November until the end of November. In conjunction with a late flowering period or under the influence of a wet and cold summer, the ripening period extends into December and January.

Olive tree - Olea europaea

Of course, you are free to harvest the olives already in the green state, as they are offered in the trade. The green color means for all varieties that the fruit is still immature. Only a complex treatment with caustic soda makes it edible. With your own olive tree in the garden, you have the privilege of waiting for the fully ripe, black-violet state and harvesting olives in the high-quality royal class.
Tip: An olive tree always lays the buds in the previous year. The form and maintenance cut in early spring should therefore be as moderate as possible. The stronger the annual shoots are shortened, the lower the number of flowers and fruits.For an olive tree in a garden within the hardiness zone Z8 or on the western edge of Z7, cool temperatures down to - 10 degrees Celsius are no problem. Nevertheless, we recommend a protection against wet and cold weather, by providing an olive tree planted with a translucent, breathable hood. The root disk is covered with leaves and brushwood. In the bucket, the tree should be under a canopy or similar rain cover. An envelope made of bubble wrap keeps the root ball warm longer behind the thin walls of the vessel.
Tip: If your olive tree delivers only a sparse first crop, do not be discouraged.Even in its Mediterranean habitats, an Olea europaea gives the gardener only at the age of 50 to 100 years the maximum yields of full-bodied olives.

Hand picking for best quality

In the large olive groves along the Mediterranean you can watch the ripe olives being beaten with sticks from the tree. Sometimes shakers are used to shake the fruit off the branches and trap it in nets on the ground. Of course, these rabid methods affect the quality of the delicate olives. By hand picking each ripe olive by hand, you get a premium quality crop.

Tips for preparation

Fresh from the tree, olives are too bitter for consumption even when fully ripe. This does not mean that your olive harvest is solely for processing into oil. By watering the fruits for a long time, most of the bitter substances are removed from them. This is how it works:
  • Lightly scrape a ripe, freshly harvested olive with a sharp knife
  • At the narrow ends, cut the peel to the pulp
  • Put the olives in a plastic or glass bowl and cover completely with water
  • Just put the lid on loosely
  • Set the bowl in a cool, dark place
In the following 4 weeks you change the water every 2 days. To do this, pour the olives into a sieve, clean the container and put the fruit back in with fresh water. In a water bath, the bitter taste has improved significantly after about a month.

Preservation in brine

Olive tree - Olea europaea

By placing the olives in a brine, conserve the fruits in a natural way. For 1 liter of water, add 7 tablespoons of salt and place the olives so that they are completely covered. By adding lemon slices, cloves of garlic, thyme, pepper and a dash of vinegar, you give the olives a special taste. In this spice liquor, the shelf life in the sealed container is up to 12 months.
In full sun, warm location in the garden, the first flowering time on the olive tree is not long in coming. On a self-pollinating Olea variety in the summer, the green stone fruits to admire, which raises the question of the right harvest time. As these instructions show, both the time factor and the color and consistency are relevant to harvesting premium quality olives. Depending on the flowering time and weather conditions, harvesting is possible from mid-November to mid-January. Green olives should linger on the tree until they have a black-purple color and the flesh is soft. The remaining bitter substances are washed out in a water bath. For a long shelf life provides enriched with spices brine.

Video Board: Growing Organic Olives.

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