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The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive… (edition 2012)

by Alex Dingwall-Main

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Member:fiadhiglas
Title:The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive Tree
Authors:Alex Dingwall-Main
Info:Arcade Publishing (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Library reading
Rating:***
Tags:nonfiction, gardening, horticulture, trees, olive tree, Provence, France, botany, travel, don't own, read 2012

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The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive Tree by Alex Dingwall-Main

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I gave the Olive Oil Test to the local raccoons. The little family keeps my large garden free of snails and slugs, but they must occasionally get a treat or they will migrate their labor contract to the next house. Using the same bread, I soaked the pieces using Italian, Spanish, Greek, Tunisian, and California oils. The raccoons have proven to be gourmands previously, so their opinion was going to be worthy. Each dripping slice was laid out in neat rows but in different spots for each row. The kits followed their mother's lead and only touched the slices she touched. The hands-down winner was the fresh cold-pressed olive oil from the California grower.

To understand that result, I turned to this book, hoping to gain a better understanding of the olive tree and its amazing produce. The author is a professional landscape architect, known for his broadcasts and articles for the Beeb and The Times. His search for the oldest olive tree, in order to complete a garden design for a French client, allows the reader to learn the history of Olea Europaea and its link to the ancient gods. Dingwall-Main's snarky remarks throughout the book are a bit of a turnoff, but when he lets nature speak for itself (the middle of the book), the gods are happy.

Good points: The Epilogue and Olive Facts section at the end of the book. Also, the hardback is a beautiful printed product, with proper paper, excellent typesetting, and intrinsic drawings by Don Grant.

In California, the olive tree is an immigrant like the rest of us. In our drought-ridden hills of gold, the nearest equivalent we have to The Shire are the groves of olive trees whispering among themselves in the sun like the true Carthaginians they really are.

Book Season = Spring (best time to plant the treasures) ( )
  Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
At times excruciatingly slow and overly descriptive, I still couldn't put the book down due to the main story of a man on a quest to find the world's oldest olive tree - learned a few things on the way as well! However, less verbosity would have made this a much better book. ( )
  Cherizar | Jan 9, 2008 |
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Quests are nothing new for travel writers. Some have toiled over a villa restoration in Tuscany. Some have pursued exotic culinary adventures. Alex Dingwall-Main, a landscape architect by day, introduces plant-purchasing as a grand pursuit in his new book The Angel Tree: The Enchanting Quest for the World's Oldest Olive Tree. Despite the title, the Dingwall-Main doesn't necessarily need to find the oldest tree?but at a minimum he must procure one that is ancient enough (say 1,000-1,500 years?olives can live extraordinarily long lives) and pretty enough to satisfy his wealthy client, Monsieur Lautour. Dingwall-Main finds several promising subjects, including the Angel Tree of the title; frustratingly, though, the locals sometimes can't be moved to part with the most revered trees for a mere monetary reward. In addition to recounting his shopping expeditions, the author brings in snippets of European history (covering such diverse topics as the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage and the Black Death) to illustrate the turbulent times through which these old trees have survived. He then fills in the rest of the book with tidbits from the life of a well-to-do garden designer. Some readers may simply enjoy living vicariously through Dingwall-Main as he crisscrosses the Mediterranean in search of Lautour's tree, but others could find themselves asking if his description of test-driving a Mini-Cooper is really necessary, or wondering what kind of person packs formal wear on a trip to buy a plant. The Angel Tree does illuminate one fascinating aspect of life in Southern Europe: old olive trees are considered a must-have accessory for the gardens of the rich. This is a boon to farmers who can sell past-their-prime trees for top dollar… (more)

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