Olives are a great source of the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect fat-based areas of the body. They also have monounsaturated fats, which resist oxidative damage by free radicals much better than polyunsaturated fats. Olives also contain proactive phytonutrients including polyphenols and flavonoids, both having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory roles. They help protect cells from free radical damage that could lead to heart disease or colon cancer. The anti-inflammatory properties may also reduce pain or recovery time for “red and sore” conditions. Olives have iron and dietary fiber, too. The iron helps hemoglobin in the blood bind oxygen in the lungs for delivery to all tissues. Fiber promotes smooth digestion, helps lower excess cholesterol and regulates blood sugar levels.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – E
Minerals – Iron and Copper
Olives may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, colon cancer, asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
How to Grow
Olives grow best in areas with cool winters and warm to hot summers. They come in two main types, African and European. The African ones are inedible, but you can use them to give the yard visual appeal. European olives provide edible fruit about six years after planting but continue to bear for many years. They are also self-fertile, so one is enough for olive production. An olive tree grows as a standard tree and needs minimal pruning. For soil, they need only good drainage. For best growth, work organic matter (compost or planting mix) into the soil. They can grow, though, in lumpy or stony soil and can be good filler for an area that cannot support many other plants. Trees can be purchased container grown as transplants. Best time of year to plant is in the fall before moist weather. With more than one tree, space them about 30 feet apart. The one nutrient olives need in quantity is nitrogen, so mulch over the roots of the tree every spring with well-aged compost, manure or planting mix. If growth seems stunted, treat the soil to nutrient-dense fertilizer like compost tea, feather or kelp meal. Throughout growth, prune off branches that cause overcrowding and block sunlight from the inner foliage. Harvest olives by hand in fall when they are green. Or leave them on a bit longer into the winter until they turn black.
Grown organically, olive trees do not usually have pest problems. Some pests stay away from olive trees because of the “chemical quality” of olive oil. Some general garden pests may cause issues. Watch for any infestations. Remove larger bugs by hand and destroy them. If uncertain about a pest, collect a few or take photographs and visit the nursery for help on identification and treatment.
Green olives are great for pickling. Black olives can also be pressed for olive oil.