Olive trees, the olea europa, is one of the oldest trees and most important domesticated crops. First grown over 6,000 years ago in the Mediterranean basin, ancient Greece specifically, it diverged and naturally spread across the globe. Over 2,000 varietals of olives are now grown in regions all over the world! That’s over 850 million olive trees on close to 24 million acres throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, South America, North America and Australia, making olives one of the most extensively grown crops in the world. Olive trees only made it to the Americas and Australia in the last two hundred years, so many of the varietals grown in California were brought over from other olive-growing countries, like Spain in our case. Here are some of the best-known varietals and the counties in which they’re grown:
- California: Arbequina, Mission
- Spain: Picual, Cornibranca
- Portugal: Galega, Cobrançosa, Cordovil
- Italy: Frantoio, Leccino
- Turkey: Gemik, Memeli
- Greece: Kalamon, Halkidiki, Koroneiki
- Argentina: Acauco, Arbequina, Frantoio, Coratina
- Chile: Frantoio, Picual, Arbequina
Each varietal boasts a unique flavor profile and is milled to suit the preferences of the local people. Some olives are grown specifically for curing and eating as table olives, where others are grown specifically for producing olive oil. Larger fleshy olives are generally best for curing, as most of their flesh is made of water and must be separated to extract the oil. Olives with a larger pit (where most of the oil is stored!) and less flesh are, on the other hand, best for milling into olive oil.
On our ranches, we grow Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki olives; all varietals that are best suited for oil. Arbequina represents the largest percentage of acreage of any variety grown in California. However, the four oldest varieties of olives in the state are the Mission olive, Manzanillo, Sevillano, and Ascolano. These older varieties were used for curing for many years due to their large size, but are now being used more and more to make olive oil.
So, to answer where the best olives are grown, it really is a matter of taste! We hope you get a chance to try our single varietal Arbosana and Arbequina extra virgin olive oils to taste the flavors unique to these olives.