Did you know that the olives grown for olive oil are different than those grown for table olives?
Like citrus, squash, or grapes, there are over 2,000 varieties of olives; about 150 of them are commonly grown for table olives or for olive oil. While some olives are grown specifically to cure and eat as table olives, others are prized for their distinctive use in extra virgin olive oil.
We grow three types of olives for our extra virgin olive oil. We’ve carefully selected the Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki – great olives for oil, but three varieties that you’re very unlikely to see as an hors d’oeuvre.
Arbequina is prized for its nutty, buttery, aromatic flavor redolent of apple and artichoke. According to Brian Mori, our Grower Relations Manager, “It’s like a chardonnay or a cabernet in the olive world. Most people really, really like it.” Mori reports that it’s also a varietal that takes well to the California climate. “It’s a compact and ferocious grower that works well with our harvesting methods.”
The Arbosana and the Koroneiki blend well with the Arbequina. The former has a pungent and grassy high note for a well-rounded flavor. The latter is very rich in oil, oleic acid, and polyphenols to give the oil health benefits and a pleasantly bitter, herbaceous kick.
While we don’t grow table olives, we of course love to eat them! Here are a few of our favorites that are beautiful on a platter with cheese, cured meat, roasted almonds – and of course flaky sea salt and a generous drizzle of quality extra virgin olive oil:
- Mission olives – Mission olive trees, traditionally Spanish, are thought to have come to our state in the 1700’s. Look for either black oil-cured or green brine-cured olives sporting big flavor and California pride.
- Castelvetrano olives – This Sicilian variety has become very popular over the last few years, and for good reason. These pretty, bright green orbs have almost no trace of bitterness making them a sweet, nutty, and buttery snack.
- Kalamata olives – Just try to eat a Greek salad without these dark purple, oblong necessities. These are most often cured in red wine vinegar to give them a nice acidic bite.
- Niçoise olives – These potent, little French olives are an essential alongside potato, green beans, tuna, and hard-boiled egg in a Salade Niçoise. Their powerful bite is much larger than their small size.
- Cerignola olives – Oversized, stuffed green Sevillano olives are a mass-produced jarred variety filled with pimento, blue cheese, garlic, or jalapeno. But if you’re looking for a mighty green giant to eat on its own, hunt down this buttery, meaty Italian variety for your antipasti plate.