Olive Crazy: All About Olives and Olive Oil
Oct 032011
 

Have you snacked on an olive and wondered what type it was? Have you ever bought different extra virgin olive oils and wondered why one is mellow and buttery, and the other is bitter and tangy? Did you wonder because you liked it so much that you wanted to buy more, or because you didn’t like it and wanted to make sure you avoided it on your next trip to the grocery store.

Flavor and texture differences in table olives, and flavor and color differences in olive oils are due to several factors. The leading factors for table olives are variety, maturity, and curing method. The leading factors for extra virgin olive oil are variety and maturity. There are other factors like climate and soil but I am conveniently ignoring them today.

If you travel the world and try the local or locally-sourced olives and olive oil, the differences in flavor, texture, and color vary widely. Here in the US, most of the table olives we consume are from the US while most of the extra virgin olive oils we consume are from the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Even though we don’t get most of the world’s olive varieties in the mass market (there are over 1,000 varieties world-wide) most only grow in a small region of the planet and can be sampled in only that locale.

Let’s take a look by state at the olive varieties/cultivars grown in the US. The states listed are the ones that grow olives commercially. Georgia is a brand new addition to the line-up as of two weeks ago. I will include a brief description of the olive oil flavors of each, but not the flavors as table olives since that varies based on curing method. I will also include which market the olive is grown for in each state: table or oil.

California

Arbequina (oil) – Delicate and fragrant, intense fruitiness, low levels of bitterness and spiciness.
Arbosana (oil) – Strong character, high levels of bitterness, spiciness and astringency.
Ascolano (table, oil) – Soft and fruity. Can be pungent.
Barouni (table, oil) – Slightly smoky and nutty flavor, peppery and spicy.
Frantoio (oil) – Aromatic, fruity, fragrant, slightly sweet with bitter and spicy at end.
Koroneiki (oil) – Sweet, fruity, grassy, slightly peppery.
Leccino (oil) – Robust, slightly sweet, and spicy.
Manzanillo (table, oil) – Grassy and peppery flavor.
Mission (table, oil) – Full-bodied, rich, slightly sweet. Great butter substitute.
Sevillano (table, oil) – Distinct, grass, herbs, and pepper.

Georgia

Arbequina (oil) – Delicate and fragrant with intense fruitiness and low levels of bitterness and spiciness.
Arbosana (oil) – Strong character, harmonious aroma, high levels of bitterness, spiciness and astringency.
Koroneiki (oil) – Sweet, fruity, grassy, slightly peppery.

Texas

Arbequina (oil) – Delicate and fragrant with intense fruitiness and low levels of bitterness and spiciness.
Arbosana (oil) – Strong character, harmonious aroma, high levels of bitterness, spiciness and astringency.
Koroneiki (oil) – Sweet, fruity, grassy, slightly peppery.
Other (table, oil) – Some growers have trees that are old and the varieties are unidentified. They still make some good oil. The table olives are more on the retail, boutique trade.

You may notice that the varieties in Georgia and Texas are mostly the same. The reason is that those two states have planted the high-density varieties patented by Olint, which is a registered trademark of the Spanish company Agromillora. The trees are distributed through authorized distributors of NursTech, Inc. The high-density varieties are more likely to succeed in the Georgia, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana climates and soils than are the traditional varieties found around the Mediterranean basin.

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olivecrazy.com

  One Response to “Olive Varieties Grown in the US”

Comments (1)
  1. Just reading your post made me hungry for a nice green olive or two…

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