I spent this morning in warm spring sunshine in an olive grove on a hillside above the village at a demonstration of olive tree pruning organised by our friends at the Moulin de Casso. An expert, Jean-Michel Duriez of the Association Française Interprofessionelle d’Olive, spent a couple of hours telling us all about the cultivation of the olive and then showing us how to prune a mature tree to let the light onto the leaves (and later the flowers and fruit) while the trunk is shaded. He said that in many languages including Occitan and Arabic the word for pruning means ‘to lighten’.
The important point to remember when pruning olive trees is to start looking at the trunk and work outwards, not to trim a lot of small pieces off the ends of the branches but to make as few cuts as possible. He did say, though, that there were as many ways of pruning an olive tree as there are people who prune olive trees.
One interesting fact I learned today was that olive pruning shouldn’t be done until March and can be done as late as July. Pruning earlier, in the winter, can cause new growth to appear which can then be badly affected by any cold weather such as we had in February this year. It was also good to hear that soon there should be official recognition of olive production from this region if l’Union des Producteurs et Professionels de l’Olivier de l’Hérault is successful in its attempt to gain appelation d’origine controlée status for the Lucque olives of the Languedoc and the olive oil of the Languedoc. This will make it easier for producers to market their products outside the region.
Once the demonstration of the actual pruning began everyone had to disappear into the branches to see what should be done.