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"A Growing Passion" Explores the History and Lifecycle of Olives in San Diego County

Head to the groves to see olives grow from flower to fruit to olive oil.

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Did you know that California’s olive groves got their start in San Diego?

The first olive trees were planted by Franciscan monks not long after they established Mission San Diego de Alcala. Cuttings from those first trees, that some call the “Madre” trees, were planted in missions all the way north to Monterey. Locals also took cuttings from the Madre trees, and by the early 1900s, San Diego was home to the state’s biggest olive groves. Olive oil from those groves was used by local canneries that processed fish caught by the region’s renowned tuna fleets.

In a new episode of A Growing Passion, “For the Love of Olives,” you’ll see the life cycle of olive trees, from flower to fruit to olive oil.

In Ramona, you’ll meet a home grower who planted a small olive orchard after his chaparral-covered property was burnt to ash by a devastating wildfire. Memories of fresh olive oil in his mother’s Middle Eastern kitchen inspired him to plant olive trees, and within a decade, those trees started producing award-winning olive oil.

A twenty-minute drive east of Temecula takes us to the Temecula Olive Oil Company’s main olive orchards, where we tour the groves to see how olives are grown and olive oil is pressed. A Growing Passion host Nan Sterman learns the art of tasting olive oil, including the chemical components that give the best oils their characteristic flavors.

Throughout the show, you’ll see beautiful olive trees, which are perfectly suited to San Diego’s Mediterranean climate, with its long, hot, sunny summers. They grow in almost any soils, they aren’t picky. And their water needs are minimal. Pale gray bark covers gnarled trunks and branches covered in deep green leaves with slivery undersides. An olive tree makes a beautiful specimen at home or in an orchard.

“For the Love of Olives” is just one of six new episodes, three arriving this spring, and three in late summer.

Later in the season, you’ll meet a famous plant explorer who travels the world in search of succulents to use in breeding and growing new garden plants. We’ll see how scientists at the Salk Institute harness plant characteristics to create new, resilient varieties to support populations into the future. Carbon farming is another topic this season, and one of the most promising ways of battling climate change. To lighten things up, we’ll visit some of Southern California’s most beautiful and notable cultural landscapes, and we’ll learn about growing, cooking, and using herbs. It’s an eclectic mix of plants, people, and planet—just the way we like to do it on A Growing Passion.

Watch all new episodes of A Growing Passion at 8:30 pm on KPBS TV in San Diego, beginning April 30, or watch episodes online anytime at agrowingpassion.com.

Follow A Growing Passion on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at new episodes and more!

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Nan Sterman
Garden expert, designer, and author Nan Sterman specializes in low water, sustainable, and edible landscapes.Nan hosts “A Growing Passion,” a TV...
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