of the great revelations as you explore the world of the olive is
that each country produces olive oils of vastly differing flavors.
Further, every region within those countries produces an olive oil
different from the oil produced only miles away -- even when the
same variety of olive is being grown. This is because the soils
and the micro-climates are different, and, as with grapes, these
factors affect the taste of the fruit.
Olives came to California in 1769 with the Franciscan
fathers. These trees produced seed that gave us the Mission variety.
California Olives grow primarily in the Sacramento and San Joaquin
Valleys. Fleshy olives favored for eating, like dense/tangy Frantoio,
Manzanilla and Sevillano, have lower oil content than the light/nutty,
small Mission olive.
California Olive Oil Council (COOC) will certify those producers
participating in the voluntary program to meet international requirements
for extra virgin. (Contact the California Olive Oil Council for
more information at 1-888-718-9830 or visit their website at http://www.cooc.com.)
Back to the top
from the French Riviera and Provence is delicate. It is sweet, fruity
in flavor, and light golden color.
devotes 60% of its cultivated land to olive growing, is the world's
#1 producer of black olives, and boasts more varieties of olives
than any other country. Greece holds third place in world olive
production with more than 132 million trees, which produce approximately
350,000 tons of olive oil annually, of which 75% is extra virgin
(which makes them the #1 producer of extra virgin olive oil) as
compared with Italy (40-45%) or Spain (25-30%). Production is concentrated
in Crete/Peloponnese (65%), the Aegean islands, the mainland Greece,
and then the Ionian islands.
olive oil produced in Greece is composed of the following quality
virgin (acidity less than 1%) 60% of total
Virgin (acidity 1 -- 3.3%) 20% of total
Lampante (acidity higher than 3.3%) 20% of total
Greek association of industries and processors of olive oil is called
to the top
is synonymous in most people's minds with olive oil -- the countryside
is dotted with olive trees. The ancient Romans were the most influential
in spreading the cultivation of the olive tree throughout the rest
of Europe and North Africa. The Romans perfected the curing techniques
for olives, and discovered the screw press. The Romans produced
one of the first cook books, compiled by Apicius (a noble and great
gourmet, living in the first century A.D.)
olive oils are categorized according to the following D.O.P.s (denominations
of protected origin): Aprutino Pescarese, Brisighella, Bruzzio,
Colline di Brindisi, Colline DI Salernitane, Penisola Sorrentina,
Riviera Ligure, and Sabina. Olive oil from the Chianti region has
the prestigious denomination of controlled origin (D.O.C.) as well
as D.O.P. Among the many different olive varieties used in Italy
are Frantoio, Leccino Pendolino, and Moraiolo.
virgin olive oil is exported everywhere -- and often mixed to produce
pure. The oil, specifically from Bitonto, is held in highest regard.
Puglia olive oil is green with yellow reflections. It has a distinct
olive smell, medium fruitiness, and a taste reminiscent of cooked
beans/ripe tomatoes. It is appropriate on meats, soups, and vegetables.
The other important products of Puglia are fish (the sea along Puglia's
long coastline is comparatively clean, free of large towns/tourists)
and cheese -- whether fresh or aged, dried or smoked (Mozzarella/Provolone,
etc.). Vegetables and cheese are often part of a meal that has pasta
as the main course -- types/shapes more numerous than anywhere else.
The meat for making a ragu is often horse meat as Pugliese prefer
its slight sweetness. Pugliesi eat a considerable amount of lamb
and kid. Beef and wild game are rare, but they are proud of their
homemade bread, which marks Le Puglie as a region with ancient traditions.
Italian government has decided to create a Denominzaion DI Origine
(DOC) system for olive oil. The DOC law went into effect in 1992.
The regulations will apply only to Extra Virgin/Virgin olive oil
-- those that contain no more than 2% of oleic acid. Furthermore,
the oils must be cold pressed, and cannot be chemically extracted.
The Agriculture Ministry will set up a National Committee for the
Oversight of the DOC law for Oils, which will designate production
zone boundaries and quality standards for each zone, as well as
enforce regulations. The law also provides for establishment of
an official tasting commission in each DOC zone to taste/approve
oils before they can be sold.
check against fraud, DOC law dictates that producers list their
trees/orchards in registrars maintained by professional organizations.
Producers will have to keep records of shipments, including names
of bottlers, shippers, or dealers that take delivery of the oil.
The Agriculture Ministry has already launched a campaign to prevent
fraud in the making of olive oil in Italy. Approximately 1200 random
samples will be collected from Italy's retail outlets this year
and analyzed to see that they meet production/processing requirements.
This is not unlike the samples they took from the United States
the past five years -- and had analyzed. We can report that we passed
with flying colors.
for Italian olive oil has soared in the United States. In 1994,
exports to the US totaled 28.95 million gallons, a 215% increase
from 1984. The United States is Italy's biggest customer, absorbing
22% of total Italian production of 131.6 million gallons in 1994.
A 45% increase in 1995-6 is blamed for a drop of 10% in sales in
Italy, and a 10% decline in exports to the US Despite shrinkage
in production, Italian experts of olive oil rose by 19.2% in 1995
vs. 1994. A large share of the exports went to the European Union,
Back to the top
olive was probably introduced to Spain by the Carthaginians in the
4th - 5th century BC, when they controlled much of the Iberian peninsula.
Between 60-65 AD, olive oil from the south of Spain started to be
traded in Rome, as Italian oil production was insufficient to meet
domestic demand -- which continues today.
Spain, 10% of total cultivated land is planted with olive trees.
This is 215 million trees, spread over 5.3 million acres. Spain
produces about 45% of the world's production, Italy 25%, Greece
20%. California is responsible for ½ of 1% - with Australia
and South America less.
Spain produces more than 60 varieties of different olives, and there
are as many varieties of table oils in Spain, as there are zones
of production. The names are generally associated with the tree,
the leaf color/size, the shape of the fruit, area of production,
or the oil obtained. Four of Spain's well-defined production zones
are designated. Andalusia, which comprises eight provinces, accounts
for 75% of Spanish production, the equivalent of 25% of worldwide
production. The province of Jaen produces 200-250,000 tons of olive
oil, the equivalent of the average production of Greece, the #3
has 73% of the US market, Spain 14%, Turkey 8%, and Greece 5%. Spain
can produce more, but uses about half as much olive oil as Italy
among the Spanish provinces is approximately:
75% Castile/LaMancha: 14% Extremadura: 6% Catalonia: 4% others:
most widely grown variety of all olives is the Picual, which represents
97% of the trees in Jaen and 37% in Cordova. 50% of Spanish olives
are of the Picual variety, which is 20% of the world's olives. This
is a vigorous tree with a well-developed canopy. The fruit is ellipsoidal
and medium to large sized, and the oil yield is high, about 27-28%,
although the average is about 22%. The oil is bright gold, pleasantly
fruity in aroma, and pungent in taste. Maturation takes place between
the second week of November - third week of December. It usually
contains 75-80% of monounsaturated oleic acid, and a low linoleic
acid content of about 4%.
Hojiblanca olive (white leaf) gets its name from the silvery color
of the underside of the leaves, Cornicabra (Goat's Horn) from the
shape of the fruit, Arbequina from its town of origin (Arbeca),
etc. The Hojiblanca variety represents about 15% of Spanish olive
trees, and is grown from the north of Malaga, to the south of Cordova,
and east of Seville. The tree is of average size, the fruit-bearing
branches are long, and the canopy is of medium density. The fruit
is oblong-shaped and weighs about 1.4 grams. The average oil yield
of about 17-19% from the Hojiblanca is lower than that of the Picual
variety. The oil is bittersweet and green to gold, and brings out
flavors of fried food. It has about 75-77% oleic acid, and an average
linoleic acid content of 7-8%.
Cornicabra and Lechin varieties are next in popularity, each representing
about 12%. The Cornicabra tree is of average size with medium-length
branches. The fruit weighs between 3-3.5 grams and average oil yield
is 23%. It is highly sensitive to cold, is pampered, and of outstanding
quality. The Lechin tree is also of medium size and has short branches.
Fruit size is fairly large, from 3.5 to 3.8 grams and average oil
yield is 25%.
extra virgin olive oils are designated by "Denominacion de
Origen" (officially demarcated producing areas) for virgin
olive oils. Catalonia has two D.O.s: les Garrigues (also called
Borjas Blancas) and Siurana. The two DOS in Andalusia are Baena
and Sierra de Segura.
Les Garrigues oils, made from Arbequina and Verdiell olives, tend
to have a nutty flavor with a peppery finish, ideal for vinaigrettes
oil, made from Arbequina, Rohal, and Morruda varieties, are sweet,
aromatic, and good for making mayonnaise.
oils, made from Hojiblance, Picudo, Picual, Carrasquena, and Lecin
varieties, are strongly fruity or smooth, and are good with salads
grown on Sierra de Segura's rugged terrain must be hand harvested.
This regions oils, made primarily from the Picual olive, are fruity
and good with salads and in frying.
of the four regions, and unique characters of the oils from these
regions are outlined below:
DE ORIGEN (DO)
in the south, has two DO's - Sierra De Segura province of Jaen,
and Baena in Cordoba. This region primarily produces Picudo and
Picual varieties. They are noble oils, with a notable sweet olive
taste, fruity shadows, full flavored, rounded, with an exquisite
finish and aftermath.
in the north, has two Do's: Borjas Blancas in the province of Lerida,
and Siurana in the province of Tarragona. This region produces the
highly regarded Arbequina olive. They produce smooth, sweet oils,
not at all spicy, with an aftertaste of dried fruit and more than
a hint of almond depending on when the crop is harvested. The oil
is labeled either "frutado" or "dulce". Frutado
is the early harvest, has a green tint, and a pleasant taste of
is the world's leading producer of olive oil, with an average annual
production of 6-700,000 metric tons. In 1997, Spain produced an
incredible 950,000 metric tons - approximately half the world's
to the top
to Spain, Turkey is the largest olive producing country in the world.
It is estimated that Turkey has 90,000,000 olive trees. The origin
of the olive oil tree in Turkey is lost in time. We do know that
the olive tree is one of the oldest cultured plants of Anatolia
(Turkey). There are records indicating that the olive was known
in Anatolia even before the Greeks. Tests have finally been deciphered
which show that a fruit known as the "zertum" was known,
and widely used by the local people in the time of the Akkadians.
The Turks' acquaintance with olive oil began with their migration
from the steps of Central Asia (and taking over Anatolia from the
Eastern Roman Empire). Eventually other nations lived in Anatolia
with the Turks, and eventually blended in the Ottoman melting pot.
a substantial portion of Turkey is in the Mediterranean basin, olive
oil traditions run deep. Olive oil dishes have always had a place
of pride in Ottoman cuisine. A bowl of cold pressed olive oil is
brought to the table every morning, where ground oregano and red
pepper are added. Bread is toasted, then dipped into the flavored
oil. Olives are always chosen first in Turkish meals.
or poor, the Muslim always breaks his fast with olives. For centuries
Turkey has exported substantial quantities to Italy, Greece, Russia,
and the Middle East.
to the top