Lindsay’s University Of Olives
In the U.S., olives are grown in California, and to a lesser degree in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Although California is responsible for producing 99% of all American olives, this makes up only .5 to 1% of olives grown worldwide.
California’s six top olive growing counties and their main varieties are: Tulare County and King’s County, which grow Manzanillo and Ascolano; Fresno County, which grows Manzanillo; and Glenn County which grows Manzanillo, Sevillano and Mission, Tehama County, which grows Sevillano, and Butte County, which grows Mission.
Spain takes the lead as the world’s largest exporter of olives, with an estimated 215 million olive trees covering over 5,000,000 acres. This represents nearly 30% of the world's acreage in olive production. Olives thrive in ten regions of the country where a surprisingly wide variety of tastes and textures can be found.
Andalusia produces the Hojiblanca, Lechin de Sevilla (manzanilla), Picual, Picudo, Ocal and Verdial olive varieties. Aragon grows the Empeltre variety of olive cultivar. Baena’s primary varieties are the Hojiblanca, Picual and Picudo. Castille and Mancha have the Cornicabra variety of olive cultivar and Sierra de Segura has the Hojiblanca and Picual varieties of olive cultivar. Other regions that grow olives include Catalonia, Estremadura, Sierra Subbetica, Priego de Cordoba, Sierra Magina and Siurana.
The history of the olive tree in Greece dates back at least 3000 years. In fact Homer makes many references to the olive in the Odyssey. Over the centuries the Greeks have developed a number of varieties used to produce as much as 350,000 tons of olive oil each year.
The main olive growing regions of Greece are the Peloponnese, Chalcedon, Crete and Lygourio. The leading varieties of olives that are grown include Kalamata, Kolovi, Karydolia, Tsounati, Psiloelia, Prassinolia, Koroneiki, Manaki, Adramytiani and Doppia.
A total of 29 countries import olives from Argentina. Most olive growing here is done in the provinces of San Juan, San Luis, Mendoza, and Cordoba. Arauco, a unique variety of large and fleshy olives, is the most popular in these areas.
The Aimogasta district is where Argentina’s olive cultivation had its origins. It is said that here, situated three kilometers from the sea, you will find the country’s oldest olive plantation, established by the Spanish back in the 18th century.
In Turkey, table olives are consumed in large quantities. Of Turkey’s 1993 production of table olives, 110,000 tons were consumed domestically, yet only 10,000 tons were exported. It would be an understatement to say that the Turkish people are enthusiastic consumers of olives.
Turkey is noted for its wealth of varieties—over 50 in all. The most common Turkish olives are grown in the Marmara, Aegean, Mediterranean and Southeast Anatolia regions. The key varieties are the Memeli, Donat, Ismir Sofralik, Ayvalik, Ekiste, Elebi, Erkence, Gemlik, Memecik, Trilya, and Uslu.
When many people think of olives and olive oil, they think of Italy. And with at least 300 varieties of olive grown in that country, it is easy to understand why. Some popular Italian varieties include the Cerignola, the Castelvetrano, and the Nocarella among many others. Italians grow these varieties in the following regions of the country. Calabria grows the Carolea and Nocellara varieties, Campagna; the Frantoio, Carolea, Coratina, Leccino and Ogliarota varieties, Latium; the Frantoio variety, Sicily grows the Castelvetrano, and Liguria produces the Opalino and Taggiasca olive varieties. Cerignolas are grown in multiple regions.
Morocco is a serious contender when it comes to the exporting of olives to the world market. Introduced and re-introduced over the centuries, olive cultivation is at the heart of Moroccan cuisine and culture.
The Moroccan Baldi Picholine, or the Picholine Marocaine, is the dominant variety and represents 98% of Moroccan olive trees. In fact, it’s said that the French import tons upon tons of these olives to eat, and to export as a ‘Product of France.’ Moroccan olives are grown mainly over three regional areas: The South/East, the Center, and the North.
History tells how, thousands of years ago, the goddess Isis educated the Egyptians about the cultivation of olives and how to produce oil through the pressing of its fruit. Today the tradition continues throughout six main regions of Egypt.
The Alamin, Al Areesh, and Rafah regions all produce Picual, Manzanilla and Kalamata olives. Alex Desert Road and Ismalia regions harvest Picual, Manzanilla, Kalamata, and Aggezi, while the Siwa region produces only the Hamed Siwi variety.
In the 1700s, Franciscan monks brought the olive tree from Spain to Mexico. Gradually these trees spread north to California by way of mission gardens. For the Franciscan monks, it was held to be a beloved symbol of their pastoral past.
Not surprisingly, Mexico carries many of the same varietals as California. Most of the olives grown in Mexico can be found in the Caborca and Sonora regions. Here, approximately 95% of the olives harvested are manzanilla. The remaining five percent are a made up of Nevadillo, Pendolina, Frantoio, Oblonga, Sevillano, Ascolano, Boroni and Mission.