Barry Fugatt: Dreams of milder weather and olive trees
BY BARRY FUGATT Garden World
Saturday, July 14, 2012
7/14/12 at 5:20 AM
Clearly, some of the nicest people on earth are gardeners. It's been my good fortune to meet many of them.
After graduation from college, I took Horace Greeley's advice ("Go West, young man") and drove a beat-up jalopy from south Louisiana to Azusa, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, where I rented a tiny garage apartment from an elderly Lebanese lady.
She was a delightful character, a devoted gardener and a great cook. She practically sustained me by sharing lots of Lebanese dishes, including lamb, which I had never eaten.
She also introduced me to lots of unfamiliar Southern California plants - olives for instance. I was familiar with preserved (bottled) olives, but I had never actually seen a living olive tree. And my new landlord had a large and beautiful specimen growing in her garden.
Olive trees, she pointed out, live long lives, often more than 500 years. Her shoulders squared with pride when she reminisced about her native Lebanon and the role played by olives in Mediterranean culture for thousands of years.
She taught me that olives were of little use when freshly harvested. They're terribly bitter, much like green persimmons. They need lots of time and the loving attention of a talented olive master to transform them into something useful and edible.
Olive fruit and oils have rightly gained popularity in western countries in recent decades. We're increasingly aware of the health benefits of the ancient fruit and its pure, golden oil. With high levels of beneficial fatty acids and powerful antioxidants, olive oils are at the forefront of the grain-and-veggie revolution sweeping America.
As the chief cook in my family, I keep the pantry filled with olive oils, some pricey, some not. I'm too embarrassed to confess how much I recently paid for a small bottle of cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil from the hills near Tuscany, Italy. It's worth every penny, however, when drizzled over salads, pastas and breads.
Unfortunately, the Tulsa area is not well-suited for growing olives. Our winters get a little too cold for this Middle Eastern native. A temperature below 15 degrees will severely damage olive trees.
Fortunately, Tulsa is blessed with businesses that sell premium olives and olive oil. The Garden Trug in south Tulsa carries a nice line of private label, extra virgin oils.
Original Print Headline: Dreams of olive trees and warmer weather
Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center/Linnaeus Teaching Garden. He can be reached at 918-746-5125 or email@example.com.
Olive trees produce one of the most valuable fruits in the world, but unfortunately, the Tulsa-area climate isn't well-suited for growing olives. Courtesy