Olive farming in summer: the waiting game

Unripe olives, Tuscany, Italy

Summer is a quiet period for olive farmers, particularly the organic sort. The trees have been pruned and the grass mown, the fruit has set, so since we are not irrigating or spraying our trees, the only thing to do now is wait. Wait, and hope for the right conditions for the tiny, hard green olives to develop into fat, oil-rich fruit.

unripe olives on olive tree Tuscany, Italy

The risks (pests, weather) now are beyond our control – the freak hailstorm that decimated vineyards in Burgandy, France this week was a reminder that farmers are always vulnerable to nature.

unripe olives on olive tree, Tuscany, Italy

Olive trees are generally alternate or biennial bearing, so our trees have developed fruit in the opposite pattern to last year. Some trees are dripping in olives, while others are bare, but overall it should be a good harvest if all the fruit develops. Spring was long and wet this year, delaying the flowering of the trees and setting of the fruit, so the local consensus is that the harvest will be a little late this year – probably starting in November rather than late October.

Olives developing on a tree in Tuscany, Italy

Olive grove in summer, Tuscany, Italy

15 responses to “Olive farming in summer: the waiting game

  1. Time to relax then, read a book, write a blog in the calm before the ‘storm’ or do olive farmers have other chores to carry out whilst waiting?
    Jude xx

    • I’m not complaining about the lack of work… in the heat we are currently experiencing it’s difficult to do anything anyway – like most locals we will try to escape to the mountains and the coast. Plus we have plenty of non-olive related activities to keep us busy…

  2. While nature produces what it knows best how to do, you can rest, dream, and prepare for the hard work to come. I re ember the great olive torques still used in the late 40s. We had just exited a war and things were still done by muscle or animal power. Wine too and the first frothy juice that was torqued was given to the children as a treat….Freshly squeezed olive oil was tasted by the adults and everyone had his opinion. The great cakes that came out were fed to the pigs. Nothing as wasted. …

    • What a lovely description, I can almost picture the scene. I love the connection with the past.. of course the presses are mechanised now but hand-picking the olives makes me feel connected to all past generations who have worked the fields. Summer is wonderful but I’m looking forward to autumn, the grape and olive harvest is such a special time of year here.

    • Here people don’t generally irrigate (although they might for very young trees if it’s a very dry summer) but in places where olives are cultivated more intensively (packed closely together and planted in shallower soil) I believe they irrigate (this doesn’t apply to Tuscany). I think outside the Mediterranean basin – Australia, Israel etc – irrigation is common.

  3. We don’t do anything to our trees either; I think our olives seem larger than this time last year, swollen with water rather than oil I rather suspect.

  4. Talking about organic products, I’m so proud Italy managed to prohibit the cultivation of MON810 corn. I hate Monsanto.

  5. What a beautiful olive grove you have and what a lovely way to live. I am sure it is hard work, but very rewarding. Thanks for visiting my blog and I look forward to seeing more of your posts!

  6. Pingback: barbeque effect | Karim Jamal-Eddine·

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