Jack Dougherty of Bella Vista Ranch knows olives.
It had been olives that bridged the gap between the hi-tech haven of Palo Alto and the Texas Hill Country heaven of Wimberley for Jack Dougherty. Mr. Dougherty had a distinguished career in the high tech industry and at one point supervised more than 1,000 employees. But his heart was always in the fruit groves and nut bearing groves near his boyhood Palo Alto home.
In Jack’s case, it seems you just can’t take the country out of your boy and he made his solution to Texas and Wimberley as soon as he could. He still travels the world in search of information and technology, and techniques on olives, but his home and his heart are now at Bella Vista Ranch near Wimberley, Texas.
We took a tour of Bella Vista Ranch a couple weeks ago and sat in amazement as he explained the story of olives to us and some others gathered under some live oak trees sitting on picnic tables right smack in the middle of one of many premier olive groves in Texas and the united states. We had no idea we had stumbled upon among the premier experts of the olive world there in Wimberley.
As he told the annals of olives, he related that the initial person who ever tasted an olive was probably not impressed. Raw olives contain an alkaloid which makes them very bitter and unedible. Some ancient civilization found that soaking them in brine removes the bad taste.
Olives have been around for centuries, but until recently these were only a condiment you served together with your meals or at a party as an appetizer. It had been in the 19902s that health organizations took notice of medical benefits, specifically our heart health. With this discovery, new diets emerged using ESSENTIAL OLIVE OIL in their recipes.
Olive farming originated in the Mediterranean, but as the economy changed so did the use of the land that olives were grown. In america, California is our major grower of both green and black olives, but because of the high prices of land, the olive growing is also shrinking. So now Olive farmers are looking for less expensive land to cultivate olives to produce the olive oil to meet the increasing demand.
It really is apparent that Mr. Dougherty has spent considerable time researching olives. You will find a report written by George Ray McEachern and Larry A. Stein, Extension Horticulturists from Texas A & M University titled ‘Growing Olives in Texas Gardens’, where they talk about growing Olives in Texas. They talk about where the climate is good in Texas, and about what olive trees need to survive. They limited the areas to East, Central, and South Texas. But that was about it. Mr. Dougherty kept on along with his research and settled in on the Wimberley area to be ideal. scholarly articles He did involve some concerns about the weather, but the soil conditions seemed to be similar to ideal olive growing locations in other parts of the world. Not too many olives are grown in Texas north of San Antonio.
The Bella Vista Ranch fits all the criteria for being in a position to grow olives. The soil has a lot of caliche making for great drainage and the temperature doesn’t dip to freezing very often or for long periods of time. There are over 1,000 Olive trees on the ranch today.
There are 16 different types of olive trees grown at the grove, with the California Mission Olive as the tree of choice which is primarily grown at the Bella Vista Ranch.
Here are some things we learned all about olives and olive production in Texas. Olive trees were taken to the brand new World by the Spanish. They first arrived in Mexico and then made their way from there to California with missionaries where the trees were first planted in 1769. The olive trees were known as Mission olives since they were grown in olive groves close to the missions. This variety no more exists in Spain, but is popular in California and Texas. Using Mission Olives gives ESSENTIAL OLIVE OIL a very long shelf life.
The weather has not always cooperated with the Bella Vista Ranch olive trees. In fact a late freeze almost put the Olive ranch out of business. They had to cut back and replace their olive trees. Other concerns were that Olives are an alternating fruit producer, and therefore some years there are more olives produced than others, and you have to hand pick the olives and pruning is very important. Olive trees grow very rapidly and when the tree grows uncontrollable, the nutrients are used by the tree for the growth and not the fruit. The Olive trees should be kept pruned.
The Olive tree produces fruit in a remarkable way, the blooms create the olive cluster, then only one 1 or 2 2 olives that are the strongest continue steadily to grow and hang from the tree. They go through a color differ from green to red, Jack can look at the tree and decide from the texture of your skin and the color when it’s time to select the entire tree. The olives gathered from each tree will be a combination of olives from green to red and also dark red. With all the different stages of ripened olives, when pressed together should make a very flavorful olive oil.
When harvesting the olives, since they have to be hand picked, they will start at the bottom of the tree and pick as high because they can reach. Then they will use ladders to pick more. The last step they will use would be to construct tarps or nets in the bottom of the tree and work with a device that looks like a little rake to comb through the tree and when the olives fall to the bottom, they are gathered in the tarps.
They will start creating a decent crop when the tree is usually 4 to a decade old, and each tree can produce up to a couple hundred pounds of olives in an excellent year. Since they are alternate bearing, one year you can aquire the maximum pounds and the next get just a few pounds. There is no way to know which year a tree will be a good producer. Pruning could be the key to producing more olives.
As was told us, the first one who ever tasted an olive was probably not impressed. Raw olives contain an alkaloid that makes them very bitter and unedible. Some ancient civilization found that soaking them in brine removes the bad taste. In the Frantoio room where the olives are pressed into essential olive oil, there exists a centrifuge method called ‘Cold Pressing’ from enough time the olives are harvested to enough time the olive oil is bottled, the olives will never go past a particular temperature. Heat and light along with oxygen will cause a chemical change, and can effect the flavor of the olive oil.
Jack Dougherty of Bella Vista Ranch knows olives.