Think you’re in-the-know when it comes to olive trees?
The Oldest Olive Trees in the World are 5,000-6,000 Years Old
Olive trees are known for their impressively-long lifespans, with experts believing that the oldest olive trees in the world are now between 5,000 and 6,000 years old.
The most famous is the Olive Tree of Vouves, on the Greek island of Crete. It still produces delicious olives, although these are sold at a premium price. The village of Bechealeh in north Lebanon is also home to olive trees believed to be around 6,000 years old – there are 16 of these olive trees here and, at an altitude of 1,300 metres, they are believed to be the highest-planted olive trees in the world.
All Olive Trees Produce Both Green and Black Olives
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer green or black olives, since all olive trees produce both.
When the fruit begins to form, they start off green, before slowly turning to black as they mature, meaning that you could sometimes find both colours on the same branch. You can harvest your olives at any time in between the green and black stage.
Olive Tree Leaves Have Medicinal Properties
While most people grow olive trees for the fruits that they produce, olive trees also boast medicinal properties in their foliage.
The leaves from olive trees are harvested to make an extract that has long since been used in traditional medicine. The extract is said to have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, helping with everything from diabetes and high blood pressure to a variety of viruses.
90% of Olive Trees are Harvested for Olive Oil
Did you know that less than 10% of the fruits produced by olive trees are used as table olives? Instead, olive trees are most-commonly cultivated for olive oil.
Olive oil is more complex than people realise – two oils made from the same variety of olive tree, or even sometimes the same tree, could taste completely different depending on how they were grown, harvested, and processed.
There are More Than 1,500 Varieties of Olive Trees
While certain varieties may dominate store shelves, there are actually more than 1500 varieties of olive trees out there.
Kalamatas are possibly the most famous of Greek olives, known for their vibrant purple colour and rich, smoky flavour. Picual boasts a high oil content, which is why it accounts for about a third of the olive trees around the world.
For the home gardener interested in growing olive trees, the variety you pick should be the one that is best-suited to growing in your individual environment. For example, Frantoio adapts quite well to temperature extremes, while Arbequina is a dwarf variety from Catalonia, making it perfect for growing in pots.
Olive trees are one of the oldest cultivated crops known to mankind. If you have been looking to add a piece of history to your garden, olive trees are well worth considering, especially since they also reward with their shimmering evergreen foliage, twisted trunk, and an abundance of fruit.