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?

San Pedro Cactus Blooms

Happy Labor Day from our San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi). A friend gave us a large piece that we planted sometime before the pandemic. This morning it decided to put out at least 12 flowers all at once.

When I woke up at 6:30 a.m. a cloud of bees was working the nectar and pollen. Around 9 a.m. some figeater beetles (Cotinis mutabilis) showed up. Figeater beetles like cactus fruit so I’m guessing they were attracted to the smell.

The green parts of the plant contain mescaline which is used in Andean traditional medicine. It also makes an edible and (non-psychedelic) fruit. The plant is easily confused with the more common Peruvian torch cactus (Echinopsis peruviana).

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