Sometimes olives seem so exotic that you couldn’t possibly imagine growing them in the English climate. Antonia Smith from the award winning Norfolk Olive Tree Company is here to debunk all myths, with an easy guide to growing, and using, olives at home.
“Choose your variety carefully- there is a mind-boggling 800+ varieties to choose from but not all olive trees are self- fertile. We recommend the Arbequina and Picual variety from Spain, as they are solid, self-pollinating trees. The Arbequina is ideal as it flowers and fruits early in the season, giving your olives a longer period to ripen on the branch.
Feed – olive trees absolutely love seaweed, so feed your plants regularly throughout the growing season, which will be May to September.
Prune- olive trees flower and fruit on last year’s growth, so a good prune during early November or March is ideal, and will create a bountiful fruiting environment.
Water- the more you hydrate your olive tree, the better! Watering will help swell the olive as it ripens too. Don’t water over the winter though!
Harvest- all olives are green, unless you leave them longer on the branch! They’ll then ripen to a beautiful black olive. It’s up to you whether you want green or black olives to cure. Pick your Olives anytime from mid to late October.
Preparing- rinse your olive harvest in fresh water everyday. It takes around 2 weeks for them to lose their bitter taste. After 2 weeks, leave them to soak in salt water for 2 days. Rinse your olives well. No, TASTE them. Your crop of olives should now start to taste like an olive!
Finishing- Cover your olives with a white spirit vinegar for just 1 day. Rinse your olives thoroughly again – you don’t want them tasting to vinegary. Transfer to a kilner jar, ensuring your jar has been cleaned thoroughly. Cover with a plain vegetable oil and layer up with peppercorns, garlic, chillies.. indeed whichever flavours take your fancy!
Leave your olives in the jar until Christmas- do not be tempted to munch them before that! This is the perfect time for the curing process, and a great opportunity to impress friends at your Christmas party.
Enjoy! Your olives are not only delicious, but contain a variety of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Huzzah! Healthy, homemade….and (more than) tantalising on the taste buds! Pour me a Martini!”
Check out Antonia and Paul at their specialist olive farm in Norwich.