Can we grow olive trees in Quebec?

The olive tree, Olea europaea, is considered an ancient fruit tree that comes from the Mediterranean. Although olive trees are easy to grow, these trees only produce fruit under very specific conditions. Their roots are sensitive to cold and do not like soggy soil. Fruit from young olive trees will not tolerate temperatures below -5.5°C (22°F) while mature trees withstand cold down to -9.5°C (15°F). On the other hand, olive trees have a long growing season and need plenty of sun and warmth to ripen their fruit before the fall frost ruins it.  

Olive trees will not produce as abundantly in subtropical or tropical conditions since rain during flowering will prevent their pollination. This is why they can only be grown commercially in countries that have Mediterranean climates with mild, cool winters and no spring rain. Like, for example, Southern Europe, North Africa, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and California. 

Although trees can also be grown in greenhouses or other protected environments, they require a lot of space and must be grown in large numbers to produce oil commercially. A commercial plantation must be super-intensive, i.e. 1000 trees/ha or more for production to be profitable. You also have to estimate the huge costs of materials, equipment and climate control. Also, once an olive tree reaches maturity, it can take four years before it starts producing fruit, depending on the conditions.

Some varieties have been bred to produce fruitless dwarf olive trees for use as indoor or garden ornamentals. In the past, giving an olive tree as a gift meant a sign of peace and friendship. These trees could also be offered as a sign of victory or success. 

We would be very happy to be able to grow olive trees in Quebec in order to produce high-quality olive oils locally. Given our cold climate and the enormous costs associated with large-scale greenhouse production, it is unfortunately unlikely that the province will become a producer of olive groves in the next few years. Until then, we are fortunate to benefit from these wonderful products through family businesses that preserve this precious resource despite all the international economic and political pressures.  


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