Eating olive leaf fresh from the tree
by Christel Webb
(Upper Hutt New Zealand)
Which olive leafs are better the young, light green ones or the older, dark green ones and are they at their best all year round?
I don't know that anybody has done a study on this, but commercial growers would likely pick a range of leaves including more of the older ones rather than the new growth and this gives a good result.
The important thing is to pick healthy leaves that have not been attacked by parasites or bugs, although a healthy tree that has ample sunlight in suitable soil and is not overgrown by other plants will not have many of those.
To answer the second question the potency of the leaves is seasonal, and the best time to pick them would be when they are most likely to have to ward off attack from their natural enemies, that is, during the growing season. This will vary according to latitude and location, but is probably the most practical way to choose when to pick.
Having said that, the supplier of my leaves has always picked them fresh when needed, and the results have been consistently good.
Farmers pick leaves after the olive harvest when producing both leaves and olives for oil and the table, as the leaves are needed to supply food for the fruit. These leaves are purchased by large companies producing standardised extracts so after the growing season also produces good results.