Book Review: A Practical Treatise On Olive Culture

A Practical Treatise On Olive Culture, Oil Making, And Olive Picking, by Adolphe Flamant

It is a good thing to remember that when one is looking for wisdom and insight about various matters that it is fortunate we still have access to some good old books.  In this particular case, a close friend of mine informed me of a recent acquisition of some olive trees and a desire to grow some olives for the purposes of olive oil.  Being quite a fan of olive oil and being interested in avoiding some of the shenanigans that result from the corruption of olive oil production in the contemporary world [1], I sought to read some books to acquaint myself with some of the ancient wisdom about how to take care of such plants that I could pass on.  And this book is certainly a worthy find, especially because it is a short and easy-to-read book that gives practical discussion of various matters relating to olives and how they are to be taken care of and harvested and how one is to obtain oil or to pickle the olives for eating (which does not interest me so much but may interest some readers).  As the book comes from 1887, when it was copyrighted, it is certainly a book that offers some very old wisdom that does not require a great deal of expenditure in technology except for a modest press.

This book is a short one at a bit less than 100 pages.  The book begins with a discussion of the ideal soil for olives, with a point being made that drainage is important to avoid rotting but that there has to be enough water as well for growth (1).  After that the author discusses propagation from cuttings as well as the trunk (2) and the general care of the olive tree (3).  There is a discussion of the modest cost of an olive plantation (4) when compared with grapes as well as the diseases that olive trees have to deal with (5).  There are chapters on the various varieties of olive cultivars that were available at the time the book was written–there would obviously be far more hybrids at present (6).  At this point the author decides to discuss how to make olive oil (7), which includes drawings of a couple of models of presses that are at the end of the book and a discussion of the dilemma between quality and quantity when it comes to olive productivity based on the season of picking.  The last part of the book then discusses the pickled olive (8) before the conclusion makes an appeal to readers to help grow more olives and thus not depend upon what was even then shady business practices from European marketers.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this book is that the author (who is otherwise obscure to me) wrote this in large part to encourage the growing of olives as an alternative to wines in the Napa Valley area and the timing of the harvest he gives would likely be acceptable for other areas not too far away, such as Oregon.  With a Mediterranean climate the author expects that pickled olives would be picked in September or October, with olive oil olives to be harvested between November and March and then pressed with a yield of about 250 gallons per acre of olives planted roughly 20′ apart at full maturity of about twelve years or so.  Hopefully this advice is something that still generally holds and is useful in Oregon in an area with a roughly similar climate to Northern California.  At any rate, it makes for an interesting and practical read, and the sort of thing that can easily be appreciated by someone who likes to learn by reading.


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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