I am often asked to identify olive varieties so I thought those with trees out there may be interested in checking out the varieties I have.
All the distinction between oil olives and table olives means is that olives bred for oil will usually have a higher oil content and table olives will usually be larger and have a better pit to flesh ratio. You can pickle oil olives and you can press table olives. If, after reading this post, you discover you have an oil variety, pickle away. You will just have small olives rich in oil on your table.
All olives start out grassy green, turn a light apple green (see the Verdale photo below) and then purple. I have been advised that if picking for oil, the best combo is 50-50, ie, about half apple green and half purple. This is to get a balance between taste and oil quantity. If you have an early variety and a late variety, you will sometimes get this balance by default .
If picking for the table, pick when the colour is best for the style you are pickling. Kalamatas are usually pickled fully ripe, others green but, mostly, it depends on your taste.
This year we have picked later than we usually do as we were away but because we got so many Verdales, which obviously ripen later, we have a good mix. Don’t wait until all the olives are purple if picking for pickling as I have found the olives will end up mushy.
The prime source of the information below is from The Olive Book by Gareth Renowden.
Verdale originated in France. It is classified as an oil variety but is grown for both its oil and for table olives. The tree tends to be quite small and is clearly a late variety as mine are only just beginning to turn purple.
Kalamata is a Greek olive most famous for its excellent pickling qualities but, as with all olives, it can be used for oil as well as pickling. It is usually harvested when fully ripe. It is reportedly hard to propagate, which would explain why the tree is generally more expensive to buy than other varieties.
Manzanillo originates from Spain. It is a pickling olive. It also produces good oil but has low yields. It is a relatively small tree. Clearly, it is an early variety as mine are all dark. I pickled this olive green last year and they look wonderful. If pickling these olives, I would pick them a bit earlier than this.
Mission (WA) comes from the trees planted by the monks at the New Norcia monastery to make their award winning oil. It is classified as an Australian variety but must have Spanish origins (as do the monks). It is different from Mission (California) but it appears to have a similar origin as that variety arrived in California with Spanish missionaries. The tree tends to grow very tall. The birds love these olives. For years, this one tree would produce enough olive oil to last Maus and me for the year but, alas, now birds usually strip it.
Arbequina originates from a small town near Sevilla in Spain. The trees are adaptable to different conditions of climate and soil. Arbequina thrives in long, hot, dry summers, but is also frost-hardy.
Arbequina has an early growing cycle, it can produce as early as its third year. The olive is favoured for its high yield productivity and constant annual crop averages.
Arbequina produces cute, small round fruit, which look a lot like grapes. The fruit ripens early.
Frantoio comes from Tuscany, Italy, where it is renowned for its flavour and quality of oil. It has small to medium sized fruit with high oil content and is well known for its nutty flavour. The tree bears good crops of smallish olives.
UC13A6 (Californian Queen) – The UC stands for University of California which developed this olive. It has very large table fruit (~11.5g). It has good flesh to pit ratio, reportedly has excellent texture and flavour and is usually pickled green. If you like your olives big, this one is for you.
Here is a comparative photo showing how big the UC 13A6 is compared to Frantoio and Arbquina. It is huge.
Sevillano – as the name suggests, it is of Spanish origin. This is the first olive tree I got (it was a gift from Maus’ mum) and it has never produced one olive. It clearly is a seedling. At the time, it was difficult to get olive trees in Perth and, probably, some old Italian guy decided to pot up his seedlings and sell them. The only reason it survives is the fact that it was a gift. Each year it flowers and has masses of tiny olives that don’t develop. The lesson here is: don’t plant seedlings.
Servillano is supposed to be a pickling olive with good flesh to pit ratio. The fruit reportedly bruise easily (I wouldn’t know) and has, primarily, been replaced with Manzanilla.
We take our olives to Jumanga Olives (Old Yanchep Rd Carabooda) to be pressed. This year, they are pressing up to 50 kilos for $20.00. They are also selling olives on a pick-your-own basis for $1.00 a kilo. This is especially good if you don’t have many and would like to top up. If you are interested, ring Juta on 9561 2411. They are a lovely family.