Your own olivegrove and making olive oil

Growing Olives and Making Oil

Planting Trees

There are many different types of olives.  Some for making oil and others for eating.  When you plant an olive tree you need to dig a very deep hole in the ground (1 m), put organic dung on the bottom, soil on top and plant the tree, with water. Olive trees don't need a lot of water, although the first period after planting it is important that the tree can adapt to the new soil , so water is needed. But an adult tree can survive practically every drought, and the yield and quality is better after a hot and dry summer. Most important for olive trees is that it is standing on a slope for good drainage. The steeper the better; trees in a valley don't grow well.


Pruning is done in the late winter or early spring when the trees are dormant.  The idea here is to let as much light and air into the centre of the tree as possible. Olive trees are very hardy and will take a hard prune.  In fact if you cut one off right to the ground new shoots will spring up from the roots.  Often, as a tree gets old about one or two new shoots are encouraged from the base and the old trunk is removed. In 1985 there was a very hard frost in Italy which killed off many olive trees.  Fifteen years later they are back!


The best way to pick the olives is to pull them off the branches with your hands or a small plastic rake.  A large net is places around the tree.  It is normally square with a split to the middle from one side.  Short poles can be used on steep ground to hold up the bottom edge and stop the olives wandering off into the grass.  Cut the grass around the trees first to allow the net to sit well on the ground.

Producing Oil

The only sensible thing to do with the olives when you have picked them is take them to the local olive mill.  They are weighed, you are given a ticket and you return about a week later to collect your oil.  If you have more than 250Kg it will be enough for a single pressing of just your olives.  Less than that and yours will be mixed with those of someone else.  You will need metal containers or 5 litre bottles.  Usually the mill will have a supply of these and you can buy them when you pick up your oil.  Keep it in a dark cool place and it will last more than a year before it starts to deteriorate.  Fresh olive oil is quite cloudy until it settles.

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