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Oleaceae Olea europaea L.

Source: Magness et al. 1971

Olive trees are evergreens of small or medium size, sometimes up to 25 feet, resistant to drought, and generally very long lived. They will withstand winter temperatures to 15F. Leaves are small, 1.5 to 3 inches long, and thick through. Fruit is borne on panicles rising from leaf axils. Fruits have a thin, smooth skin, green when immature, through red to nearly black when ripe. Shape is generally oval, 0.75 by 1 inch in small-fruited kinds to 1 inch diameter and 1.5 inches long in large-fruited varieties. Each fruit has a single, elongated seed. Pulp is extremely bitter, due to tannin in raw fruit, and contains up to 20% oil.

Season, bloom to harvest: 6 to 8 months for green pickles; 8 to 10 months for ripe olives or oil.

Production in U.S.: About 55,000 tons.

Use: Pickled for green olives, brined and canned for ripe, crushed for oil.

Part of fruit consumed: All except seed. Seed sometimes crushed for oil extraction.

Last update February 18, 1999 by ch