One of our first plantings when we bought the garden eight years ago was an olive tree. Last year this small tree yielded 1.4 kilos of olives and I hoped that the time of counting the individual olives in the crop, which I’d done for the first few years, was over. But this morning I picked 93 healthy fruits from the tree. The rest of the plentiful crop were too badly damaged by olive fly, Bactrocera oleae, which lays an egg in each olive. The grub hatches and eats its way through the flesh, turning it bitter and inedible. It’s the first year we’ve suffered this kind of attack and I felt a false sense of confidence that we didn’t have to use the chemical sprays which go against our organic ideals of gardening. Next year I think we’ll have to give in and spray the trees.
I was glad to find these few healthy olives. I’ll cure them and they should be ready to eat in time for the Christmas and New Year apéritifs that have become our family tradition since we’ve had olive trees. I’ll soak them in spring water for a few days, then drain them and cover them with salt and leave them for a few weeks until they no longer taste bitter. After this they can be kept in a jar, covered with olive oil, until we eat them.