Olive Harvest 2021

One of the principle reasons to keep blogging long after social media and Google’s search algorithms deemed the end of blogs is that Root Simple functions as a garden diary. Towards that end let me note my second Frantoio olive harvest on Tuesday September 7, 2021. I harvested just shy of 3 pounds of olives from our parkway olive tree. I’m guessing I lost at least 9 pounds to olive fruit fly damage. I moved up the harvest this year to prevent losing all the olives to the damned fly. We’ll see if harvesting this soon changes the quality of the final product but I read that commercial growers harvest at this early stage.

Following UC Davis’ recipe for Sicilian cured olives I mixed up a brine consisting of:

8 cups water
3/4 cup pickling salt
1 cup vinegar

This was more than enough brine to cover my 3 pounds of olives, which filled one 64 oz mason jar and a half filed 32 oz mason jar. As of today, small bubbles have formed. Two years ago when I brined olives I replaced the brine about every month as the brine got dark. It took 7 months in the brine to get edible (and delicious) olives.

To cut down on olive fruit fly damage, I use a McPhail-type trap baited with Torula yeast tablets to reduce the fruit fly population. I use two tablets and replace them once a month. I definitely capture quite a few olive fruit flies and I think the trap gets me more usable olives but, lacking a control, I can’t be sure.

UC Davis recommends the traps combined with a late season application of kaolin clay when the fruit flies begin to lay eggs in the fruit. They also recommend replacing the bait every two weeks from April to November. This all takes careful observation–I only see the flies in the trap and the damage to the fruit is a bunch of very tiny holes that are hard to see at first. As the larvae develop the damage becomes obvious.

Harvesting and processing olives is one of the more labor intensive gardening tasks around our compound but how cool is it to have a chore the people have been doing for at least 6,000 years?

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17 Comments

  1. What about using some sort of netting to block the flies (and other insects) after the blossoms have gone and the fruit has started growing? Is that an option in your setting?
    I for one still love reading a good blog–yours included! I suppose that makes me old-ish.

  2. Hey Michael–thanks as always for your support an comments. Our olive is planted in the parkway as a street tree–so a net would be kind of ugly and obtrusive. Even if the tree were in our backyard it would have to be a huge net and the tree would have to be netted for many months–April through September. I might just have to be resigned to a reduced crop. As it is, 3 pounds of olives is a pretty good haul–we haven’t even finished eating the batch we made two years ago.

  3. Hi Erik,
    I check your blog daily. I greatly enjoy it:)
    I had a nice olive tree that I purchased some years ago from Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, near Elmendorf, Texas. The orchard is now closed for orders, unfortunately, as the owner passed away. She had a very interesting display about olive processing.
    My olive tree died last February, during the Texas snowmaggedon. I lost all of my fruit trees, too.

    • Cindy–very sorry to hear about your trees–must be heartbreaking. Friends of mine in Texas told me about just how bad snowmaggedon was–hadn’t thought about all the lost trees too until your comment.

  4. I look forward to hearing about how this year’s olives turn out. I have family who live in Davis and surrounding rural area and olive trees loaded with fruit are everywhere. No wonder UC Davis ag program has so much good info. One pleasure of visiting up in Davis is going to the Saturday farmer’s market where among all the other wonderful local stuff, there are a couple of vendors who sell local olive oil that they dispense from giant urns into either their bottles, or your own. It looks like liquid gold! tastes pretty darn good too.

    BTW, I have lost about 90 percent of my tomatoe crop this year to squirrels… because of daily thick fog all summer (love it!) everything ripened late so the squirrels have just decimated everything. Hard to lose a crop to the competition….

    • Squirrels are so frustrating. Same problem here–they got almost all of our apples. And Davis is one of my favorite California towns. Got to bike around it a few years ago and speak at UC Davis. Great food to be had.

  5. No olives this year on any of my five trees, San Francisco peninsula. And I promised Johnny of Granola Shotgun a jar this year

  6. That is SO cool. What a fascinating connection to the food past!! Up here in Montana we have no olives, but we did can some pickles last weekend using Matt’s grandma’s recipe for brine. That’s our connection to a food past, I guess. 😉

    I am with you on the blogging thing. I realize there is little “point” to what I do over there, given more modern trends. Yet I find it such a useful tool for myself (largely garden and home project related) that I keep going. Plus there is a small group of people who persist in reading what I write after all these years. Mostly my family! Ha!

    • Same here–I use it to keep track of things and appreciate the feedback from folks like you. Hope your pickles turn out well.

  7. I am sad that blogging is becoming a thing of the past. I very much enjoy reading your blog regularly … gardening … thought styling … all of it. Your efforts are much appreciated!

    • Thank you! Blogging may make a comeback and, to some extent, it has with the platform Medium. Still, the forces of social media and the way Google’s search algorithm works, it ain’t what it used to be.

  8. I didn’t know about social media ringing the death knell for blogs, which is just as well as I read many blogs every day, yours included. I have both of your books and find them and your blog to be a font of good information.
    Thank you for your work

    I learned today about olives…even though I don’t eat them, I am interested in everything that grows.

    I have a serviceberry tree that gives loads of berries in the spring, just around the time when the Robins come back from their southern vacation.I make a deal with them as long as I can get a few cups of berries I will be happy.

    OK off to read about what is going on my other bloglists

    • Thanks for reading our blog and books! We really appreciate it. And I’ve never heard of serviceberries so off to google . . .

    • Service Berries were the first I ever picked in the wild–as a little kid near the Canadian border. My grandma and I baked a pie for my dad because I knew blueberry was his favorite pie and Grandma said it was pretty similar. It was my first time helping bake a pie, too. This year my husband bought me a locally grown Service Berry bush from a nursery. The drought and heat of this summer have it looking a little haggard, but I have high hopes for that (sentimental) little bush.

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