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From gift cutting to beautiful tree and first harvest: our Olive tree adventure

Why are the olives from the tree so bitter that they can't be eaten?

There are stories that are hard to believe. This is one of them. On a weekday, someone called Treemore with a question about an olive tree that her father had received. Usually, such questions are about the care of the tree. This time it wasn't. "Why are the olives from the tree so bitter that they can't be eaten?"


At first, I thought there might be confusion about the origin of the tree. We only started selling olive cuttings in 2021, and they couldn't possibly have ripe olives on them yet...right? A few weeks later, we received a report with photos about the olive tree adventure of Margreet and her 93-year-old father. The story is so beautiful that I am sharing it here in full, without any editing. Thank you, Margreet, for sharing your wonderful experience!


Dear Maarten,


Two and a half years ago, my father, now 93 years old, received an olive cutting as a gift around Christmas in 2021, which came from you. We found it funny and amazing to see how this cutting was in a flat pot and fit into a small box that went through the mailbox. For about three weeks, we kept the olive in the small pot and watered it until we saw that it had taken root and started growing.


Since repotting plants isn't my (Margreet) hobby, I immediately put the olive in a relatively large pot, about 18 cm in diameter. Then I placed the olive plant on the windowsill of the southwest-facing window. It stayed there for the first year and a half.



I usually water our plants about once a week (or sometimes even less often). Very quickly, within a few days, I saw that the olive wouldn't survive with that regime. If I wanted the olive to survive, it needed more frequent watering.


I discovered that keeping the soil slightly (!) moist made the olive grow quickly. If the potting soil stayed dry for a longer period, the growth slowed down. It turned out that watering the olive every other day worked best for its growth.

 

The olive really started to grow in spring, around April. The growth continued until September. By then, the tree was already 110 cm tall, so it had grown almost 1 meter since we received it! From autumn, the growth stopped, but the following spring, the olive on the windowsill started growing again. By early June of the second year, it was literally high time to repot the olive again, as it was about 1.40 m tall. It also bloomed abundantly in the spring.



We bought a large pot about 65 cm tall with a diameter of 45 cm, so it had plenty of space and could grow further. Repotting still wasn't my hobby. The olive seemed to find this large pot a paradise. It went into a growth spurt and quickly reached a height of over 2 meters that summer. Most of the blossoms fell off, but eventually, about 5 fully grown olives developed. We were so surprised! Especially since this happened already in the second year.


When really cold nights came, below -5 degrees Celsius, I moved the olive to the utility room for overwintering. By then, the olive tree had reached a height of about 2.40 meters! I occasionally checked if the soil was still slightly moist and gave water very occasionally, about every 2 weeks or less.

 

In the spring, after the risk of frost had passed, in mid-May, I put the olive tree outside again. It continued to grow. It grew another 40 cm in height and produced many more side branches. It became an increasingly beautiful and fuller tree. Last autumn, we thought the olives weren't ripe yet because they tasted very harsh and bitter. So we left the other three olives on the tree all winter.

 

In the spring, we tasted them again. And to our surprise, still inedible! We thought this to be strange. Was this an olive variety with inedible olives? Like some wild apples are too sour to eat?



We contacted Treemore. Maarten didn't have the answer. But through the Spanish grower, he found out that olives are never edible straight from the tree. They're not poisonous, but their taste is very unappealing. It turns out that making olives edible involves a lot of work. To remove the bitter taste, it takes months!

 

The process starts with soaking in water, which is changed daily. After about 1-2 weeks, you can place them in a saltwater solution for about 1-2 months, repeating the process a few times. Then the olives are edible. This summer, we want to try making the olives edible. This wikiHow page explains four different methods for making olives edible.

 

A tip in advance: harvest the olives while they are still green. Green olives are basically just unripe olives (like green tomatoes are unripe tomatoes) and naturally taste quite mild.

 

We plan to plant the olive in the ground soon, so it has even more space to grow. If needed, we'll give it a "jacket" in winter to protect it from severe frost. These covers can be found at most garden centers.

Besides watering regularly and planting in relatively large pots quickly, we haven't done anything special. Not even fertilizing, although I think the olive is ready for it now. I started fertilizing it last week.

 

As of this writing, 2.5 years after my father received the olive, the olive is in full bloom for the second time and has reached a height of 2.85 meters!

 

We are deeply impressed and amazed (along with our family and friends) at how quickly this olive tree grows! And we also find it incredible that the olive bears fruit already in the second year.



We are grateful and happy that we can follow and enjoy this miracle up close. And hopefully, with the knowledge we have now, we can make this year's olive harvest delicious.

 

We wish you much success with your company and thank you for providing this beautiful olive tree that brings us so much joy.

 

Kind regards, Roel and daughter Margreet


 

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