Q & A with Emilio of Chasewater Winery & Olive Mill…
Q: What is the minimum number of olive tree varieties needed to make olive oil?
A: For olive oil and olives on small acreage you need 4 to 6 trees because of pollination issues. Multiple trees creates a better effect for fruit growing. You want as much pollen out there…
Q: What olive trees do you recommend and what size?
A: It’s a good idea to start with 15 gallon size or bigger because this shortens the amount of time you have to wait for fruit. Sometimes you’ll have fruit within a year or two.
Q: How about growing in the ground versus container growing?
A: I don’t recommend growing in containers like wine barrels – there’s not enough root space to grow fruit. I’ve had experience doing that here, numerous olive trees were growing in wine barrels and the roots were bound. They ran out of space. So with limited space, you’d want to do at least a 4ft X 4ft or 6ft X 6ft planting area per tree, and two to three feet deep. Each tree needs that much soil and area for expanding. With a final height kept between 8 to 12 feet tall, with that kind of root growing space, that should be okay.
Q: What kind of olive tree varieties do you recommend for home owners interested in making their own olive oil?
A: The Italian varieties are good: Frantoio, Leccino, Marino and Pendolino. Pendolino is actually a pollenizer for all of those. It’s one of those trees that produces a lot of flowers. If you look at the Pendolino compared to the other trees during the flowering stage, if you rub against the Pendolino, you’ll be covered with yellow pollen, while the other ones you don’t notice it as much. That’s what a pollenizer is – high producing flowers. It’s putting out a lot of pollen.
Q: Do you strategically use a pollenizer plant like Pendolino in your olive farm at Chasewater?
A: Yes. As a rule of thumb, 10 percent of your planting should be in pollenizers.
Q: Any other varieties you might recommend?
A: For Spanish varieties I recommend: Manzanillo, Mission or Sevillano (Sevillano doesn’t produce much oil, more a table olive). Those three varietals pollinate each other. There are also the industrial style: Arbequina, Koroneiki & Arbessana. Koreneiki is a Greek variety, the other two are hybrids developed to make olive oils. They’re not as strong in antioxidants or have levels of polyphenols as high as the Italian varieties do. Spanish oils are softer oils and not as high.
Q: What type of equipment do home gardeners need for making olive oil?
A: Way back when I started, I heard stories from the small farmers saying they bought their own home press which was a lot of work.
Q: Is the olive press expensive?
A: Starts about $800 all the way to $2000 for a little press, but it’s all really a lot of work. Processing fifty pounds will take 4 to 6 hours.
Q: A lot of work, not fun?
A: It’s tedious – there are so many steps you have to go through and it gets messy because the paste is everywhere and there are seeds, you have to grind it yourself. You have to really love it. It takes a while.
Q: Production-wise 4-6 olive trees… How many pounds of olive oil might you produce?
A: With 4-6 olive trees, first couple of years, once they start producing, you could get 20 to 30 pounds. Three to six years you could get 50 to 60 pounds; eight to ten years you could get 100 pounds. Not per tree. Total!
Q: Long term production?
A: What happens with olive trees and some fruiting trees is that they start to do alternate bearing. 4 -6 th year they start going into alternate bearing. Trees need to take a rest from all of the production. Every other year they take a rest to recoup to build up more foliage and all that, so they won’t produce as much fruit as in the previous year. It doesn’t mean they won’t produce anything. It’s just a smaller crop. It’s just a factor that results in less fruit, smaller crop.
Q: So you experience alternate bearing here at Chasewater with your olive trees?
A: It happens every other year. (Our olive trees were planted in 2002 at Chasewater). After the 4th to 6th year they’d been producing quite a bit so they started going into alternate bearing.
Q: Is that frightening from a business perspective?
A: Yes and no, but all the trees are not on that time so it balances out. So one year we’re going to have, lets say, 2 tons of fruit from this side, the next year it will be 1.5 tons or a little less…but then this section( east and west) it’s going to be heavy on this side this year, and then light, so it balances out.
Q: How do pounds of olives translate into olive oil?
A: Rule of thumb on how to get the olive oil is by weight. So, 10 to 15% of the olive weight will be olive oil. So if you have 20 pounds of olives, that will be 2 pound olive oil ( at 10%). Oil weighs 7.61 pounds per gallon. So if you have 100 pounds of olives, that would be 10 pounds, which is 10% of that weight: that’s a gallon plus. But, if you go to 15% you already have close to 2 gallons of oil.
Q: So it sounds like some varieties produce more oil?
A: Yes. These trees here (pointing) are 20%. I would have had 2 gallons of oil with 100 pounds. It’s just the way the varietal produces oil and it’s consistently 20%.
Q: What about pruning the trees? Do you have to thin fruit?
A: For making olive oil no.
Q: What about fertilization, any recommendations:?
A: You can put 2 to 3 inches of good quality compost/soil amendment under each tree.
p.s: I love Chacewater’s olive oil, (wine too, I’m a member of their mixed club). If you’re looking to buy olive oil or to learn more about olive pressing, check out their site. FYI passionategardeners isn’t an affiliate.
You can also watch the video here!