Olive trees may evoke memories of your recent trip to Spain, or your favorite Greek restaurant, but not necessarily a common house plant.
Did you even know growing olive trees indoors is possible? Well, it is and you can definitely grow olive trees indoors.
I was lucky enough to have hiked the trail known as the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It’s a 500-mile pilgrimage across the northern countryside, walking from west to east, through vineyards, olive groves, and deserts. It’s one of the most amazing adventures I’ve ever had and something I will forever cherish in my memory. And nothing reminds me more of that trip than olives.
I wandered through countless olive groves, even tasting an olive right off of its branch (it was disgusting). But the fresh olive oil I was able to taste, with its equally fresh wine counterparts, the food culture and the sun, made the trip what it was. I will never forget how beautiful the olive trees looked in the distance, but to have a reminder of that trip surrounding me on a daily basis is a blessing.
You may not live in the Mediterranean, but olive trees are fast becoming a popular and common house plant. They are tolerant of dry air and soil, making them a wonderful addition for our forgetful friends.
Good news: Olive trees can survive a number of years in a pot.
Bad news: They will eventually have to be planted in the ground.
Unfortunately for those of us who don’t live in Mediterranean-like climates, we will eventually have to say goodbye to our beautiful olive plants or give them away to our climate gifted friends. But, as long as you have a big enough pot, our olive trees can live up to eight or nine years in a pot! Just like a dog! So if you are going to have an olive tree and a dog, make sure they aren’t the same age when you get them—-little bundles of tragedy. Growing olive trees indoors is fun and exciting, try it out!
How To Care For An Olive Tree
Sun: You want to have full sun when it comes to an olive tree. Remember, they originate from warm and sunny places like Spain and Greece, so you can’t grow one of these if you don’t have ample amounts of sunlight. If you do live in a cloudy place, think about getting a grow lamp. You can read more about grow lamps here.
Water: Make sure your container or pot has plenty of drainage holes, and you must make sure that your pot won’t sit in soggy soil. A good idea is to place a layer of gravel or lava rock or styrofoam at the bottom of the pot to make sure no stagnant water remains. Potted trees should be watered more often than trees that are planted in the ground, allow the soil to dry somewhat before watering again, and then thoroughly water until soaked.
Soil: You can get away with any well-draining soil.
Fertilizer: A healthy and happy olive tree will need to be fertilized around twice per year. One time in the spring and one time in the late summer (growing season). You’ll want to use a small amount of slow-release fertilizer.
Pruning: You’ll want to prune the tree if in a container in order to keep it within the space constraints. All you have to do is pinch off the growing tips to promote bushiness and remove a branch from the base so it will open up space in the center of the tree.
You can also try root pruning. Root pruning is simply taking the tree out of its pot and shaking off the loose soil, all the while pruning off its roots and then placing it back in the pot with new soil.
In the summer, take your olive tree outside and give it as much sunlight as possible. If you live in a climate with cold weather, bring it indoors and think about using a grow light, these plants need ample sun.
Where to buy: You can buy your olive tree here.
How to Cure Your Own Olives
Okay, so you have an olive tree and its producing olives. Amazing! Now, how do you use the olives and how do you cure them so you can eat them on your next salad or with your cheese plate?
Step 1: Ingredients/What You’ll Need
- Olives (Lucky for you, you have fresh olives from your own tree!)
- Kosher Salt (Or any non-iodized salt that is easy to dissolve in water)
- Jars–any glass jar will work. You can use Mason jars or glass milk bottles. Make sure it seals.
- A Spoon
- An uncooked egg
- Small Sharp Knife
- Large Bowl
Step 2: The Brine
Gently heat a quart of water and add a half cup of salt (to begin with). Once the salt dissolves, see if the egg floats. If it doesn’t add more. Once the egg floats, your brine is strong enough. Set aside and let it cool while you crack the olives.
Step 3: Cracking the Olives
- Wash your olives.
- Literally, crack your olives by wrapping them in a cloth and hitting them gently with a rubber mallet or with a knife or spoon. Cracking the skin will allow the brine to penetrate and cure the olives.
Step 4: Curing Your Olives
- Now it’s time to place your cracked olives in your clear glass container.
- Pour in the brine
- Let the olives be completely submerged in the brine to prevent them from spoiling.
- After adding the brine, close the container and set aside.
- Refrigerate them.
- Leave them alone.
WARNING: Botulism is a real thing. If you find moldy, slimy or mushy olives, THROW THEM OUT. It’s better to lose a batch of olives than be hospitalized.
Step 5: Eating Them
How do you know your olives are ready? It will usually take a couple of months, but there are some visual clues to help notice.
The best way to tell is by looking at them. Do they have that familiar dark olive color that we see in the store? If they do, taste one. You will know immediately if they are ready. Olives that aren’t cured are incredibly bitter and nasty tasting.
If the olives are too salty, soak them overnight in fresh water before eating them. When they are ready, sprinkle fresh olive oil and spices to serve for guests. You’ll never think of olives in the same way!
Growing olives trees indoors is an amazing way to become a locavore, especially for those of us who love martinis, wine and cheese nights, and general olive goodness. Try it out for yourself and find different ways to use your olives!