Olive trees have a small, white blossom that usually blooms four years after planting a seedling. Typically, it takes 15 years to get a harvest from the tree. The oldest certified olive tree is the Olive tree of Vouves Crete, Greece and is over 2000 years old. However, the average life span of these trees is somewhere between 300 and 600 years. The olive branch is an internationally recognized symbol of peace and is featured on the flags of 7 nations, 4 US states, and also on the flag of the United Nations. You can not eat olives directly from the tree because they contain a bitter compound called oleuropein. Harvested olives must be cured to be palatable and consumed. Olives can be used to fill part of your dietary fruit requirement and only requires 16 of the fruits to equal one fruit serving. They are rich in vitamins A, E, K, B and are a great source of natural oils and minerals. 2.25 million liters of olive oil are consumed worldwide each year with Spain leading the way in production. The tradition of crowning Olympic champions with olive branches in the past was revived in 2004 due to the games being held in Greece.
The olive is an attractive evergreen tree that can grow 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide. However, it usually grows short and stubby (20' x 20'). The leaves are a grayish-green with a silvery underside that makes an interesting landscape accent. The tree is easy to grow and will tolerate many soil types, but prefers the soil to be well drained. It is cold tolerant to around 10°F. The olive fruit is green, on all varieties, and ripens to a blackish-purple color. The different varieties are harvested for different purposes, usually for oil or preparing for eating. Some varieties are harvested when green for one purpose or allowed to turn brown-black for another purpose. Olive trees have been in cultivation since 2,500 B.C. so there are hundreds of varieties. Willis Orchard Company offers seven of the top olive tree varieties from around the world for you to enjoy in your home orchard.