Olive trees have been known to live on through centuries, surviving storms, the collapse of civilisations around them and even changes in climate. The oldest olive tree in the world, which stands proudly on the island of Crete, still produces olives to this day. Olive trees thrive in the Mediterranean climate. They are grown typically from cuttings, taken from olive trees which are at least two years old. This cuttings require around four years of life before they are able to bear fruit. Olive trees produce their flowers in the Spring, when the air temperature rises above 70 degrees F. This tree species produces flowers of both gender and is pollinated by the wind! Some olive varieties, such as the Manzanillo are self-pollinating whilst other varieties, such as the popular ‘Kalamata’ are cross pollinated. The actual olive fruit begins to grow upon the previous year’s tree growth and branches. They have a cycle of producing a large amount of smaller fruits one year (known as their ‘off year’) and they produce a smaller number of large fruits the year after – this is their ‘on year’. Olives tend to be harvested during the autumn months. Water, light and heat are essential to the prolonged life of an olive tree, however they are hardy trees that can withstand harsh conditions also and live on for hundreds of years.
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The processing of olives is essential in order to maintain the freshness, crispness and quality of these pitted fruits. This post will take you on a short 101 through olive school and leave you feeling more knowledgeable on your favourite fruits!