Well, it’s official…we have bugs

November 8, 2007 | By | Comments (3)

by Amy Machnak, Sunset food writer

OlivesAt first we thought our olives were just ripening very fast. They had turned color and were dropping from the trees in mid-October, weeks before we thought they would be ready. How naive we have been. Deborah Rogers, from The Olive Press, in Sonoma, has concluded—after we sent her samples from our trees—that we are infested with the infamous olive fly. Not only are all of our 21 olive trees riddled with olive-fly worms, but we are the proud owners of “the worst infestation” Rogers has ever seen.

Lucky us.

Our dreams of easily picking and pressing a wonderful olive oil from Sunset’s own back yard have been extinguished. But that’s not even the saddest part of our present situation. Evidently, if we ever hope to harvest the olives in the future, we need to pick all of this year’s crop of deformed, grotesque, and worm-rotted olives and destroy them. The irony here is that this year’s olives are the bumper crop of crops.

There are three ways to destroy the harvest we have. We can bury the olives, burn them, or bag them in large plastic sacks and set them in the sun for a few weeks to roast. This will encourage our olive trees to produce fruit in the spring right on schedule and also prevent the worms currently residing in the fruit from hibernating all winter only to reinfest in the spring. It will also make us a considerate neighbor to anyone in the area who may also be trying to rid their crops of the persistent insect.

If all goes well, we can start spraying our trees with an enzyme or good old-fashioned (and rather unsightly I am told) clay. Both of these organic materials discourage the olive fly and, with luck, will help ensure a decent crop next year. What we don’t know is how much money and time is that going to take. We’ve heard the sprays are expensive and need to be applied on a regular basis.

In the meantime, we need to find a local grower with an abundance of fruit to buy from and figure out the best way to crush those olives in the next few weeks before we miss the season altogether.

If anyone has an extra 800 pounds of high-quality olives lying around, let us know. At this point we have an unwavering need to make something. Too bad we can’t bottle determination, Team Olive would have a cash crop on its hands.


  1. Kristi

    I have a very large old olive tree (taller than my 1-1/2 story house in my yard that I am sure has at least 200+lbs of olives in it. The branches are really starting to hang and you could collect if you like. I live by Alum Rock Park in San Jose. I would like to make my own cured olives, but do not think I will get around to it this year nor do I know of a place that will crush the olives for oil. My neighbor has several trees also and she would probably let you pick hers too.

    September 25, 2008 at 10:24 pm
  2. Arno

    You’re in good company. I understand that there ia a serious problem with the olive fly in Tuscany.

    Good luck next year.

    November 20, 2007 at 11:57 pm
  3. John Fischer

    You successfully tried Craigs List in the past to get rid of your big rocks. I would suggest you advertise your need for olives in the same place. I have seen several people advertising their olives for free – you pick them and get the olives, the tree owner does not have to deal with the mess. Good luck!

    November 8, 2007 at 2:51 pm

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