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.


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.


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.


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.


Aug 072011

Every day I read lots of material about the olive, some from books and others from the internet. Each week I share with you the articles, recipes, research documents, and other information I find on the internet. Most of it is very interesting and some of it inspires me to write an article or two of my own. None of these links are in any way my opinion or are endorsed by me. I am sharing.

Olive Links of the Week

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?” from The Olive Oil Times.

A follow up to my article “A Crazy Olive News Story” from KPSP Local 2 in Thousand Palms, California “Judge allows inspection of olive farm in lawsuit“.

Recipe: Stacked Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Basil Pesto and Black Olive Puree” from YNN Syracuse, Oswego, and Auburn.

Onion Lovers Pizza (By Jamie)” from the Yeshiva World News. I had to include this one. I love onions and lots of them.

Interesting facts about singers and olive oil “Take a Swig of EVOO!” from the Passionate Olive.

The Olive Press writes about extra virgin olive oil authentication in “COOC: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil Certification“.

Into The Kitchn a recipe for “Spicy Appetizer Recipe: Roasted Jalapeño & Lime Hummus“.

The Olive Oil Times sells certified International Olive Council tasting glasses here.

Rucker Place, Lima Bean Spread” from Alabama’s channel 13 here is a video and recipe for this interesting spread.

Corpus Christi Caller article “Olive oil production takes off in Texas amid Eagle Ford Shale rush“.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Apr 162011

Let me present player number one in the latest international olive oil drama – California, please take a bow.

The California story I want to tell does not start way back in history with Spanish monks planting olive trees at the missions they established in California. It starts just before World War II when California was first positioned to become an international olive oil powerhouse. It is a story of opportunity and intrigue and reminds me a lot of the new television series, The Borgias, without any of the love interest stuff.

Up until WWII the California olive industry was ticking along. The markets for table olives and olive oil swung back and forth with the table olive market the primary olive market in California before the war. Why? Because the growers made more money for good looking olives that could be cured and canned.

During WWII olive groves around the Mediterranean took a beating. Many of the trees were salvageable but most of the men and women who had, in peacetime, cared for the now war-devastated olive groves found themselves a bit busy doing those things one does when war comes to visit.

California had an opportunity to reestablish their olive oil industry, which had collapsed at the end of the 19th century, and they did. California ramped up olive oil production and business flourished. The “mob” who has notoriously been involved in the Mediterranean olive oil industry bought some of the California olive groves and joined Californians in supplying olive oil to the rest of the world. Business was good.

Then the war ended and Mediterranean folks started working their farms again, free from the “feed my troops” demands of Hitler and Mussolini. Olive trees were pruned back and in a few years the trees were back in production. World olive oil production shifted back to the Mediterranean, the mob moved on, and many California olive oil producing farms went belly up. Those that survived went back to canning (metal was still scarce after the war) and tried to hang on.

Let’s move forward in time several decades to the beginning of the 21st century. The table olive market is close to saturation, and the British Medical Journal published the Mediterranean Diet study done by the University of Florence, Italy, and interest in olive oil as a means of achieving good health exploded. California growers took notice. Spanish olive growers had started 17 years before to trellis and decrease the size of olive trees for easier picking (farm labor is expensive). The newly patented olive tree varieties, called super high density, were sent to the USDA for quarantine and in the early 21st century were planted in greatest quantity in California, spreading to Texas, Georgia, and Florida. The U.S., with California in the lead, is now positioned to be a big player in the world olive oil market.

So when I asked myself “why are so many Californians “graciously” helping Georgians and Floridans develop as potential competitors for the still small U.S. olive oil market?” It’s because they cannot develop a quality olive oil industry alone. They need the help of other states to overcome a similar situation to the one they faced during and at the end of WWII. They are getting ready and the rest of the U.S. should help.

My next article will be about the collapsing European, Middle Eastern and North African economies and how it is affecting the olive oil industry.

May the sun shine through your branches.



Mar 282011

The 1st Annual Texas Olive Oil Tasting and Contest is over and the results are in.

South-Central Texas’ booming olive oil industry was on display on Saturday, March 26th at Threadgill’s in Austin before a large, enthusiastic audience. Olive growers from all over Texas were on hand to find out how Texas olive oils compared to those from Italy, Spain, and Argentina, countries recognized as the top producers in the world.

Jim Henry, Texas olive pioneer, owner of the Texas Olive Ranch, and one of the founding members of the Texas Olive Oil Council celebrated a banner Texas 2010 olive harvest, “I’m delighted to see so much interest in Texas olive oil and such a large crowd at this event” said Henry, “and it’s great to see that what we’ve been doing is now supporting efforts in Northern Mexico to plant olive orchards.”

It looks like Jim is taking his pioneering spirit to Mexico as well. And now for the results of the contest.

The Texas Olive Ranch took second and third place in the large producer category with their Arbosana varietal olive oil and their Grove Master’s Blend. Azienda Guarino, an estate olive oil from Sicily, Italy, took first place in the competition overall. “This is still a great day for Texas”, insisted Antonio Guarino, representing Azienda Guarino. “Texas is definitely going to be a world class contender in the years to come.”

Jeff Conarko, owner of Con’ Olio Oils and Vinegars in Austin, coordinated the Showcase. In the Artisan Grower Category, Jewett Farms from Moulton, Texas was awarded first place with their oil milled from a mix of Frantoio, Arbequina, Leccino, Picual, and Mission olives. “This was unexpected”, said a surprised Dunham Jewett from Houston, Texas. “2010 was the first harvest from our trees that we were able to press into olive oil”.

Second place was awarded to Bel-Asher Olive Oil from Asherton, Texas, from 100 year old trees of unknown variety that inspired olive growers to plant again in the Carrizo Springs area. Third place honors were awarded to Qualia Orchard Olive Oil in Del Rio, Texas, part of the Val Verde Winery estate, the oldest winery in Texas.

“All of the olive oils represented in the showcase are winners, because for the last 50 years anyone who wanted to grow olives in Texas has been told it wasn’t possible,” said Henry. “Now we know it is not only possible to grow olives, it is possible to make a world class olive oil with a Texas crop of olives.”

The crowd at Threadgill’s also previewed a rough cut of “El Camino, the Texas/Mexico Olive Trail,” a documentary film produced and directed by Bill Millet, coming to PBS stations June 2011. Segments of the Judging and Showcase were shot for inclusion in the documentary.

The Judges of the 1st Annual Texas Olive Oil Tasting and Contest were:

  • Jeff Conarko (owner, Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars)
  • Virginia Wood (Food Editor, Austin Chronicle)
  • Kathleen Scott (Writer, San Antonio Express News)
  • Scott Boruff (Executive Director, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department)
  • Tracy Dufault (HEB Stores, Carbs & Oils BDM)
  • Elsa Gramola (Celebrity Chef, Central Market, Sicily, Italy)
  • Don Jesus Ramon (Ciudad Acuña, Mexico)
  • Don Maurovio Cordoneda (Resistencia, Argentina)
  • Don Ricardo Reguera Blanco (León, Spain)

The olive producers who participated:

  • Texas Olive Ranch (Carrizo Springs, Texas)
  • Anderson’s Olive Farm (Dilley, Texas)
  • Sandy Oaks (Elmendorf, Texas)
  • Farrell’s Olive Orchard (Artesia Wells, Texas)
  • Azienda Guarino (Partanna, Sicily, Italy)
  • Indalo Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Catamarca, Argentina)
  • Villa Blanca Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Seville, Spain) certified organic
  • Rancho La Espiga (Ciudad Acuna, Mexico)
  • Jewett Farms (Moulton, Texas)
  • Corpus Christi Olive Oil (from cir. 1942 olive trees)
  • Bel-Asher Olive Oil (Asherton, Texas from cir. 1914 olive trees)
  • Qualia Orchard (Del Rio, Texas)
  • Tejeda Middle School Olive Oil (San Antonio, Texas)

May the sun shine through your branches.


Mar 202011

Texas is celebrating. Texas growers recently harvested a bumper crop of  extra virgin olive oil, and the Texas Olive Oil Council and Threadgill’s North restaurant in Austin, Texas are hosting the celebration.

They would love for all you olive and olive oil lovers to join them on Saturday, March 26th, 2011 from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm at Threadgill’s North for the 1st Annual Texas Olive Oil Tasting and Contest. Details about all the fun can be found at the TOOC link above.

The 2010 crop of Texas olive oil will be judged in a blind taste test against the best olive oils from Argentina, Italy and Spain, with an additional estate olive oil competitor from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. There will also be an exclusive screening of “Texas Olive Trails” before it shows on PBS in June 2011. For more about “Texas Olive Trails” see my article about the film from yesterday.

I wish I could attend. If you are attending, tell me all about it.

May the sun shine through your branches.