Transport a little bit of Europe to your own garden

Surprisingly Australians now consume more olive oil per person than any other country outside the Mediterranean.

Olive trees can be grown successfully right across Australia as Cobram Estate has convincingly proved, fighting off over 700 contenders for the prestigious award of World’s ‘best extra virgin olive oil’ for 3 years straight at the New York International Olive Competition. Cobram posted a record harvest last year of 13.8 million litres, the future looks ripe for the picking for the humble olive in Australia.

Tough, hardy, productive or ornamental. Drought resistant, with few pests to contend with and a potential lifespan of ‘000’s of years. Olive trees will tolerate a range of average soils, though they do have an aversion to wet feet and a preference for cool/cold winters and hot summers.  Mature olive trees will survive and crop well even in the very coldest areas of Australia.

Handsome, hardy and a symbol of joy, peace and happiness an olive tree will enhance your home or make a thoughtful gift for even the poorest gardeners, they are very forgiving, happily adapting to pots for small gardens or as an elegant feature. 

Planting Guide

Best not to plant young trees during winter if your winter temps fall below minus 5 on a regular basis. Otherwise any time is fine. Traditionally in Europe planting is done in the autumn.

Don’t rush it....  To achieve optimal growth potential (meter in height & width per year) some simple pre planting preparation will amply reward you for many years to come. 

Add manure to the soil prior to planting (most are suitable as long as not too fresh) and apply generously. Olives prefer a neutral to alkaline soil with ph 7.0-8.0, add lime if under. 

Surprisingly the addition of blue-metal (basalt rock) crusher dust, at the same ratio and application as fertilizer will help as its very high in minerals and not easily water soluble therefore doesn’t leech out easily, excellent if you have a sandy soil.  (note cracker dust should be of 4mm or smaller particles).

Plant your tree to the same depth or a little deeper as the pot it came in – do not tease out the roots and water immediately.  Stake if your location is windy and mulch to 4mm from the trunk.

Staking is important for young olives, stakes need to be strong enough to support the tree while the anchor roots are developing yet flexible enough to allow the tree to move freely in the wind which will encourage strong roots and a thick trunk.

Olives need little water to survive once established however to maximise your crop, the tree will need at least one soaking good watering in winter.  It is important to note that wet feet are the olives worst enemy so good soil drainage is essential.

Keep weeds away from the base of the tree in the first couple of years and maintain a weed free zone of 300mm beyond the foliage canopy.

Pruning is important to maximise the shape, health and fruit production. Having said that olives are tough and can be neglected for many years and still bear well. Prune your tree to open up the centre, this will encourage vigorous growth and reduce pest and fungal problems.  Aim for a vase shape – hollowing out the centre.

Fertilize annually, preferably in autumn/winter after the fruit harvest.

Happy gardening!

There is an enormous range of olive varieties to choose from, check with your local nursery, if really keen check this link for an in depth guide.


Secrets of a Tuscan Kitchen

POLLO ARROSTO AL VIN SANTO –  (Roasted chicken with Vin Santo Sauce)

Vin Santo is a Tuscan dessert wine made from dried grapes.  Marsala makes a good substitute or use a good dry white wine if your local wine provider doesn’t stock it.

Erbe Aromatiche Al Sale is a fundamental seasoning for Tuscan cooks, made by blending aromatic herbs with salt. This handy blend usually sits by most Tuscan stoves ready to be sprinkled over a roast or grilled vegetables or to season a sauce.  Each cook has his or her own combination of flavours: rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage are some favourites. Mince a handful of fresh herbs with a teaspoon of salt. The salt adds flavour drawing out the essential oils back into the mixture. The salt also preserves the herbs, drying them and concentrating the flavours. (keeps for several days)


1 chicken

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tblsp Erbe Aromatiche  (see recipe above)

2 cups Vin Santo or substitute



Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Lightly oil a small roasting pan or heatproof casserole dish.

In a small bowl, combine the herb mixture with the garlic.

Loosen the skin of the breast of the chicken and spread the herb mixture under the skin. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on its side in the prepared pan and roast for 15 mins, then turn and roast the 2nd side for 15 mins.

Turn the chicken onto its back and roast for 30 mins or until the chicken is cooked.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.

Set the roasting pan over medium heat and add the wine, stirring with a wooden spoon. Increase the heat to high and cook to reduce the liquid by half.

Add any juices from the resting chicken.

Drizzle the pan sauce over the roasted chicken and serve.

Serve with seasonal roasted vegetables or salad to suit the occasion.

Adjust cooking time according to the size of the chicken.

Tip: Chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife.

Now you may well have some Vin Santo left over, so what could be better than putting it to good use to finish off a delicious Tuscan meal with another delightful Tuscan treat.  Simply pour a small glass of Vin Santo and dip the biscotti in. The rule of thumb here is to dip and count to 5 for the best note.


By the way... if you just happen to be in Florence, perhaps, on the Elegant Italy and France at Leisure tour in September, we ought to let you know that on the city centre side bank of the Arno river just 100m left from the Ponte Vecchio lies a very well stocked bottle and gift shop, perfect for a bottle of Vin Santo and biscotti for yourself or a gift.