Olive trees are everywhere in the region around Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois. Naturally, we just had to plant one on the roof terrace as well. It is a very hardy plant, so it should thrive for many years to come.
The common olive tree (Olea europaea) is grown in large quantities in Sicily to be sold in garden centres all over Europe.
It is hardy to -15°C, a temperature rarely experienced in our region. In 1953, temperatures dropped from 23°C during the day to a hard frost of -17°C overnight. This killed many thousands of olive trees as well as vines, but it is (still?) relatively rare.
Olive trees cope well with wind and hot summer too. Full sunshine is what they love best.
The most important thing to grow olive trees successfully is well-drained soil. They need a liquid plant food for Mediterranean plants in spring. Here in the south of France they are likely to flower and produce inedible olives.
Olives can not be eaten straight off the tree, but need to be marinated for a couple of weeks in brine.
Olive trees are attractive all year round, with their soft green leaves that are silvery underneath. If planted in pots, as ours is, they need repotting every 2-3 years until they eventually reach 4.5-9 metres in height.
We mentioned that they olives of the common olive tree are inedible. That is clearly not the case for the olive groves that are everywhere in Aude, the region around Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois.
The region is rightly famous for its olives. They are Lucques, a variety that is considered by many to be one of the best eating olives in the world. It can also produce good olive oil, but this is hard to extract.
If you want to buy Lucques olives in the UK, Waitrose usually stocks jars of them.
L’Oulibo not only produces jars of Lucques olives and olive oil, but is an award-winning tourist attraction with highly-trained and experienced guides who talk you through the story of olive production in the region during a walk around the olive grove and small factory. Naturally, there is a shop where you can buy Lucques too.