I have a young olive tree in my garden; I bought it from a seller with a truck along the roadside, not much hope there I’ m afraid. I have no idea what it really is, I mean the botanical classification but anyway it’s a kind of homage to Italy because together with those lovely Leonardesque rows of plane trees getting bluer as they recede into the distance it’s the typical Italian tree in my idea of Italian stereotypes. It was planted in the garden and surprisingly likes it. My daughter was worried about the original position so I moved it and it took off and did well there too. So by then it was making great headway but one year I was unable to prune the rambling roses scrambling over my pergola which cast so much shade over the olive tree that it tended to lean away. And of course the twigs very quickly got strong and quite thick and the tree had grown into an unpleasant, unnatural hunched shape. Obviously the only thing to do is to give the roses a haircut and try and pull the olive tree back to a more upright position. With a lot of help and muscle power from students and friends, very gradually the tree is now taking shape again, beautifully upright. It needs to fill out the more neglected side with some extra branches still, but I’m happy.
A year or two ago, I noticed I’d got a very heavy crop of olives. I asked around trying to find out when you should pick them. When I tasted them I decided they were awful until someone explained that YOU DON’T EAT OLIVES STRAIGHT FROM THE TREE! The next step was picking them and trying to make them edible (Google was very useful on this occasion) So first of all you wash them, prepare some brine and put them away in the dark. Easy peasy, except you have to do this 3 times with brines containing different percentages of salt. And I even did this. Then I forgot them in my cellar! When I DID remember, all the jars I opened had exciting varieties of mould growing on the top! Help! Throw them all away? Of course! NO though, wait a minute, don’t I know a very nice food scientist from a place I used to work? Yes. So after an exchange of photos to be sure that I wouldn’t poison myself I received a whole list of instructions. It was going to be a long job, but “in for a penny, in for a pound”. It was because I had to wash them, exagerrated a bit with the salt, found them inedible, washed them again and went through the 3-stage process yet again. Believe me however much you pay for your olives, it’s never enough. So now I proudly use my very own olives in my recipes ,that’s a success story!