Habitats: Woods and scrub in dry rocky places
Bloom Color: White
Main Bloom Time: Early spring,to late spring
Edible parts: Fruit (brined), leaves, oil
Other uses: tea, dye, cosmetics, wood work, fire wood
The olive tree is arguably the most typical feature of the Mediterranean vegetation. It takes a long time to grow, but it can live for several hundred years. The oldest known specimen in Vouves on Crete is estimated to be 4000 years old.
As an evergreen plant, the olive tree does not lose all of its leaves at any time of the year, the leaves are shed regardless of the season. The leaves of the olive tree can be used as tea, which is said to have many positive properties. Hildegard von Bingen recommended olive leaf tea for stomach and digestive problems.
Spain is the largest olive producer in the world. Today's Spanish range of varieties is still the same as in the 15th century. The olive tree is also cultivated most frequently on Mallorca, alongside the almond tree. But it can also be found wild in many places, for example in the forest on my property.
I've published this article at pflanzenfreund magazin, so you can read it in german if you like.
Because of their bitterness, olives cannot be eaten raw. The olives that we buy in the store are soaked in water for several days until all the bitter substances have been flushed out. Then they are placed in brine or oil. The friuts are green when raw and then become steadily darker, from purple to black. However, green olives colored black with iron gluconate are often sold as black olives. Although these are less aromatic, they are cheaper than black olives and can often be recognized by the fact that they are already stone-free. When placed in oil, they can be kept for at least one year, regardless of color, which probably explains their frequent use in mediterranean cuisine.
Most of the olives, however, are pressed directly into oil when they are still green or right before the change of color. The harvest takes place from mid-october, depending on the area. I was fortunate enough to be able to help my friends at Finca Alma with this year's olive harvest and learn what to look for.
The harvest is mostly celebrated as a social gathering. Friends come together to harvest, eat and celebrate. The olives are shaken from the trees either with sticks or machines. In our case, a kind of vibrating comb was used for this. To catch the olives, the soil is covered with nets that make it easier to collect them. Leaves and small branches are later sorted out by machine. If possible, harvest and processing should take place on the same day to ensure the high quality of the oil. The olives are washed in the oil mill, crushed together with the core and finally cold-pressed for "extra-vergine" oil. This is the best way to preserve the valuable ingredients.
Because of its high content of unsaturated fatty acids, extra olive oil is very healthy and has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and fat metabolism. It even has anti-inflammatory effects. One liter of virgin olive oil takes around 8 to 10 kilos of olives. Harvesting was fun, very educational and as a newcomer to Mallorca it was a good opportunity to meet new people with similar interests.
There will very likely be no olives in my forest garden as this would not add to the island's biodiversity. However, I ask myself: "Could I refine the wild olives that are already to be found in the forest on the property with table olives?" This still needs to be clarified or tried out. But I will definitely try my own olive leaf tea!