`The Best Olive Varieties for Hobby Growers in Northern California - Olive Oil Times

The Best Olive Varieties for Hobby Growers in Northern California

By Thomas Sechehaye
Jun. 13, 2023 14:33 UTC

Olive trees are becom­ing an increas­ingly com­mer­cial crop in California. However, they are also an excel­lent option for home gar­den­ers.

This is espe­cially true in Northern California, where the cli­mate and soil con­di­tions per­fectly suit olive tree cul­ti­va­tion.

They’re pretty easy to grow in our area since we might as well be in the Mediterranean out here in Sonoma County,” Lindsay Beem of Urban Tree Farm in Fulton told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:Meet One of Spain’s Hobby Olive Growers

Beem noted that each vari­ety has a unique appeal to home gar­den­ers.

Mission olives are a clas­sic vari­ety that pro­duces juicy plump olives, ideal for table olives or oil. Olive lovers tend to rave about their strong fla­vor and robust essence.

Mission olives grow well and pro­duce lots of fruit,” Andrew Kimes, co-founder of Jungle Bamboo and Palm Nursery in Cotati, told Olive Oil Times.

Sometimes called the California Mission, the olives from this tree have a bold fla­vor that may have pep­pery notes.

For gar­den­ers look­ing for a smaller vari­ety, the Arbequina is per­fect. The hardy trees are ver­sa­tile and grow in var­i­ous con­di­tions, mak­ing them well-suited to the ups and downs of the California cli­mate.

PlantNative describes this tree as highly adapt­able and able to sur­vive tem­per­a­tures as low as –7 ºC. It can be grown both out­doors and indoors. Arbequina is pro­lific, known to pro­duce up to 10 kilo­grams of olives per tree.

Arbequina olives are often described as nutty and but­tery’ and fre­quently com­pared to the fla­vors of almonds or hazel­nuts.

The Frantoio tree is said to be highly pro­duc­tive, and the medium-sized olives are known for their pleas­ing fra­grance. According to PlantNative, these olives are filled with 80 per­cent pulp and can be used for cur­ing or olive oil.

Frantoio olives offer pleas­ant shad­ing and com­fort for out­door sit­ting, din­ing and gar­den­ing. Planting more than one Frantoio tree is a way to encour­age trees to pro­duce even more.

This is a smaller vari­ety many home gar­den­ers favor. The olives tend to be fla­vor­ful and small.

According to PlantNative, the Manzanillo flow­ers and sil­hou­ettes bring the Mediterranean into your back­yard.

A spe­cial bonus of the Manzanillo olive is the fruit. It is known for its meaty olive flesh and 85 per­cent pulp, mak­ing this vari­ety an ideal choice for home gar­den­ers.

Manzanillo is prob­a­bly the most com­mon for table olives, as the fruit is huge and meaty, and it’s what you usu­ally find used for canned olives,” Beem said.


Manzanillo grows well and pro­duces lots of fruit,” Kimes added.

PlantNative describes the Maurino olive as well-suited to tight areas and windy con­di­tions. This vari­ety is known for its high yield of olives. They need pol­li­na­tors to pro­duce, mak­ing this ideal for plant­ing with other trees such as Frantoio.

Meanwhile, Koroneiki olives are self-pol­li­nat­ing and often trans­formed into olive oil. The ele­gant clas­sic tree has glossy leaves and yields oval-shaped fruits.

Especially for new gar­den­ers, sun, soil and water­ing tips con­tribute to the suc­cess­ful growth of an olive tree.

Olives need full sun to grow their best and espe­cially to pro­duce really good crops of fruit,” Beem said. It is never a good idea to plant olives in any type of shade.”

Fertilizer is a must dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son,” she added. For new gar­den­ers, amend­ing clay soil is espe­cially impor­tant since olives appre­ci­ate good drainage.”

Olives are con­sid­ered drought tol­er­ant once estab­lished, but once estab­lished’ means after three to five years. So they still need reg­u­lar water to get estab­lished,” Beem con­tin­ued. If you are grow­ing the trees to pro­duce fruit, it’s best to give them at least mod­er­ate water their whole life, if not as reg­u­lar as dur­ing the grow­ing sea­son. The tree is drought tol­er­ant but does just fine with extra water.”

According to Beem, many hobby grow­ers do not real­ize the dif­fer­ence between green olives and black olives is the stage of ripeness on the tree.

If you want green olives – pick them early,” she said. If you want black olives – let them darken on the tree. They don’t come from dif­fer­ent trees; just a mat­ter of how long they get left on the tree.”

The black olives you get in the can are gen­er­ally dyed – so nat­ural black’ olives are more dark pur­ple,” Beem added. They don’t come from dif­fer­ent trees. It is just a mat­ter of how long they get left on the tree.”

Making table olives is pos­si­ble, espe­cially for ambi­tious food lovers.

Olives need to be har­vested at the proper time, which tends to be in the autumn and win­ter. After har­vest­ing, the leaves and debris must be removed to pre­pare the olives cor­rectly.

Raw olives must be pre­pared in brine, a water and salt solu­tion. This process requires soak­ing the olives for sev­eral weeks. Brining removes the bit­ter­ness and enhances the fla­vor of olives. After brin­ing, many home grow­ers enjoy adding other fla­vors such as gar­lic, herbs, and lemon.

While har­vest­ing, clean­ing, brin­ing and stor­ing may not sound too intim­i­dat­ing, it is labor-inten­sive. To be suc­cess­ful, orga­nize all the ingre­di­ents, gather the nec­es­sary tools and allow plenty of time for the work required.

According to Beem, it is also pos­si­ble to make olive oil from back­yard trees. However, the process is also quite labor-inten­sive.

To make olive oil at home, one must har­vest ripe olives, remove all the pits, and crush them. Some home gar­den­ers use a mor­tar and pes­tle to crush small batches of olives into a paste. The paste is pressed into oil using a hand-oper­ated crank or hydraulic press.

It’s good to con­sider your site and do your research,” Beem said. The amount of olives depends on the size of the trees and the amount of fruit that is pro­duced.”


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