Olive Oil Is Like an excellent Wine

Jack Dougherty of Bella Vista Ranch knows olives.

It was olives that bridged the gap between the high tech haven of Palo Alto and the Texas Hill Country heaven of Wimberley for Jack Dougherty. Mr. Dougherty had a distinguished career in the high tech industry and at one point supervised well over 1,000 employees. But his heart was always in the fruit groves and nut bearing groves near his boyhood Palo Alto home.

In Jack’s case, it appears you just can’t take the country from the boy and he made his way to Texas and Wimberley the moment he could. He still travels the world in search of information and technology, and techniques on olives, but his home and his heart are now at Bella Vista Ranch near Wimberley, Texas.

We took a tour of Bella Vista Ranch a few weeks ago and sat in amazement as he explained the story of olives to us and a few others gathered under some live oak trees sitting on picnic tables right smack in the center of among the premier olive groves in Texas and the united states. We had no idea we had stumbled upon among the premier experts of the olive world there in Wimberley.

As he told the history of olives, he related that the first one who ever tasted an olive was probably not impressed. Raw olives contain an alkaloid that makes them very bitter and unedible. Some ancient civilization found that soaking them in brine removes the bad taste.

Olives have been around for years and years, but until recently these were only a condiment you served together with your meals or at a celebration as an appetizer. It was in the 19902s that health organizations took notice of medical benefits, specifically our heart health. With this discovery, new diets emerged using Olive Oil in their recipes.

Olive farming started in the Mediterranean, but because the economy changed so did the use of the land that olives were grown. In the United States, California is our major grower of both green and black olives, but because of the high prices of land, the olive growing is also shrinking. So now Olive farmers are trying to find less expensive land to grow olives to produce the essential olive oil to meet the increasing demand.

It is apparent that Mr. Dougherty has spent a lot of time researching olives. You will find a report written by George Ray McEachern and Larry A. Stein, Extension Horticulturists from Texas A & M University titled ‘Growing Olives in Texas Gardens’, where they talk about growing Olives in Texas. They discuss where the climate is good in Texas, and all about what olive trees have to survive. They limited the areas to East, Central, and South Texas. But that was about it. Mr. Dougherty kept on along with his research and settled in on the Wimberley area as being ideal. He did involve some concerns about the weather, but the soil conditions appeared to be much like ideal olive growing locations in other areas of the world. Very few olives are grown in Texas north of San Antonio.

The Bella Vista Ranch fits all the criteria for being in a position to grow olives. The soil includes a lot of caliche making for great drainage and the temperature doesn’t dip to freezing frequently or for long periods of time. publish articles You can find over 1,000 Olive trees on the ranch today.

There are 16 different types of olive trees grown at the grove, with the California Mission Olive as the tree of choice that is primarily grown at the Bella Vista Ranch.

Below are a few things we learned about olives and olive production in Texas. Olive trees were brought to the brand new World by the Spanish. They first found its way to Mexico and then made their way from there to California with missionaries where in fact the trees were first planted in 1769. The olive trees were referred to as Mission olives because they were grown in olive groves near the missions. This variety no more exists in Spain, but is popular in California and Texas. Using Mission Olives gives Olive Oil an extremely long shelf life.

The weather have not always cooperated with the Bella Vista Ranch olive trees. In fact a late freeze almost put the Olive ranch out of business. That they had to lessen and replace almost all their olive trees. Other concerns were that Olives are an alternating fruit producer, meaning that some years there are more olives produced than others, and you also have to hand pick the olives and pruning is essential. Olive trees grow very rapidly and when the tree grows out of control, the nutrients are employed by the tree for the growth rather than the fruit. The Olive trees ought to be kept pruned.

The Olive tree produces fruit in a fascinating way, the blooms create the olive cluster, then only one 1 or 2 2 olives that are the strongest continue to grow and hang from the tree. Each goes through a color change from green to red, Jack can go through the tree and decide from the texture of the skin and the color if it is time to pick the entire tree. The olives gathered from each tree is a mix of olives from green to red and even dark red. With all the different stages of ripened olives, when pressed together should make a very flavorful olive oil.

When harvesting the olives, since they need to be hand picked, they’ll start at the bottom of the tree and pick as high because they can reach. Then they use ladders to pick more. The final step they will use is to lay out tarps or nets at the bottom of the tree and work with a device that looks like a little rake to comb through the tree so when the olives fall to the bottom, they’re gathered in the tarps.

They will start producing a decent crop once the tree is normally 4 to 10 years old, and each tree can produce up to couple hundred pounds of olives in a good year. Since they are alternate bearing, one year you will get the maximum pounds and then the next get a few pounds. There is no way to know which year a tree will be a good producer. Pruning could be the key to producing more olives.

As was explained to us, the first one who ever tasted an olive was most likely not impressed. Raw olives contain an alkaloid which makes them very bitter and unedible. Some ancient civilization found that soaking them in brine removes the bad taste. In the Frantoio room where in fact the olives are pressed into olive oil, there exists a centrifuge method called ‘Cold Pressing’ from enough time the olives are harvested to the time the essential olive oil is bottled, the olives won’t go past a certain temperature. Heat and light alongside oxygen may cause a chemical change, and can effect the flavor of the olive oil.