Wot? No Olives?

By Paul Homewood



Sometimes  it is fun looking back in time, like this story from 2006:



An environmental consultant in Devon has taken advantage of global warming to plant what is believed to be Britain’s first commercial olive grove.

Mark Diacono

Mark Diacono prepared his land to suit the needs of his olives

Mark Diacono has planted 120 of the trees on his 17-acre smallholding on the banks of the Otter, near Honiton, and hopes to harvest his first crop in five to seven years.

He said temperatures had risen so much he believed the climate in southern England would be hot enough for olive cultivation. "The question is, have I done this 10 or 20 years too early?" he said. "I don’t think so."

Olive trees thrive in subtropical zones, such as Morocco, Mediterranean countries, south-western United States and parts of South America.



We ought to start by explaining that Diacono is no ordinary commercial farmer. He was in fact Head Gardener at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage. (You did not really think Hugh did his own gardening, did you?)

Diacono is really more of an experimental gardener/environmental consultant, which of course is fair enough.

So how did those olive trees turn out?

Unfortunately, according to the Independent, they all died out in the winter of 2009/10. Undaunted however, Diacono planted some more of a different variety that summer.

Sadly, these don’t appear to have fared any better. Rick Stein reported a few years ago that no olive oil was commercially available from Diacono’s Otter Farm.

And Otter Farm have confirmed to me today that the olive trees have now been removed from the farm.

In fact, according to Caradoc Doy, the Devon based horticulturist, olive trees are not new to Britain. The oldest is over 100 years old and fruits in decent summers.

As he explains:

You can expect flowers in the early summer which will develop fruit, but do not expect the fruit to ripen. Even in hot Mediterranean climates the fruit are not harvested until November or later. The summer of 2006 was hot enough for fruit to develop on some of my trees. Sadly, we still need much more sunshine in Britain before a regular harvest makes it anywhere near the kitchen!

Olive trees have apparently been increasing in popularity in Britain, but mainly for decorative purposes. Some varieties are hardier than might have been expected, and can thrive with proper care.

But you can forget about a regular harvest every year.



September 20, 2020 at 12:45PM

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