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james 05-01-2007 09:27 AM

Olive blossom season
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We are now through pruning season, and the first olive flowers are set. There is a lot more pruning than I had thought, with as much as 25% of the tree removed each year. The fruit sets on two year-old growth, so they shape the trees to promote later growth for good air flow and easier harvesting. They really go at the trees.

I was contacted by a company a few years ago on whether we thought there was a market in the U.S. for olive wood for grilling. There is a growing mountain of olive wood in Genova, which is basically free -- if you could figure out how to get it to America and sell it. A few of the grilling companies have started offering olive wood as a scented good for propone and charcoal grills. Here in Florence, they pile it up and burn it.

The flowers are tiny, and about 1 in 20 sets an olive. They are too small to be pollinated by the wind, and need insects to move from flower to flower. If you have a lot of rain or hail during the pollination period, which keeps the bugs from being active, you can end up with a lousy harvest. The trees are all dry farmed, so rainfall also dictates the size of the crop. Unlike grapes, which are relatively consistent in terms of yield, olive harvests are all over the map from year to year.

Here a couple of photos of the trees across the street. They're beautful this time of year.

jwnorris 05-01-2007 11:19 AM

Re: Olive blossom season
I have stumbled upon Olive wood a couple of times in the past. California Charcoal has had it and there is a wood yard in Ornage, near my house, that has it, off and on. As I remember, it burns really hot.


james 05-01-2007 11:48 AM

Re: Olive blossom season
It burns great, and I've found pizzerias that use it. But I can't imagine shipping it to the states to burn in a pizza oven. Too bad.

dmun 05-01-2007 03:46 PM

Re: Olive blossom season
In the winter the entryway of my supermarket is full of shrink-wrapped bundles of firewood from ESTONIA! It's an expensive buy, eight usd for four or five small logs. It's labled "european hardwood". As if we weren't tripping over excess hardwood here in suburbia.

I'm sure the same market that suports Estonian logs would go for Italian olive wood for the barbeque. The only problem with that is that most people now think that a barbeque is full of lava rock, and has a big white tank underneath.

james 05-02-2007 01:09 PM

Re: Olive blossom season
Speaking of pollination, have you been reading about our bee loss?

Bees, and our diet, on the brink - Yahoo! News


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