California is my favourite part of the USA. When I was in San Francisco in April at the IACP, I met the California Ripe Olives team sampling their olives. With the first taste of the Manzanillo olive, it brought me back to Sevilla, Spain in 2003. My friend and I were sitting on a sidewalk cafe and had just finished tapas, which included these delicious olives, just before we confirmed our plans to drive to the small white village of Jimena de la Fonterra in Cadiz. That is where my Canadian teacher’s friends lived and opened their house and kitchen to us during our travels in Spain. One of my many memorable, good food experiences in Spain was that each region has olive trees and each olive had the unique characteristics and flavours of that region.
How did the olive industry start in California?
Californian’s started planting acres of olive trees in response to the high demand for olive oil in the 1800’s. Then the market became saturated (with monounsaturated oil ironically) and prices dropped. Olive tree farmers had to come up with a new plan. A resourceful German woman named Freda Ehmann and her son, Edwin, were part of this farming population. The Ehmann’s had trees that bore little fruit and selling pressed oil was not an option. After consulting with a Berkeley professor on processing methods, Freda began experimenting with 280 gallons of olives in barrels on her back porch. Thanks to her creative idea – California Ripe Olives were created.
The California Ripe Olives Industry Today
California produces over 95% of the olives grown in the USA. This industry has multi-generational orchards powered by farmers and their families. Plots come in all sizes from small 5-acre lots to 1,000-acre multi-crop farms and they are individually serviced. Strict growing and handling standards remain consistent. There are two main varieties of trees that produce the olives: Manzanillo and Sevillano. These different varieties create different sizes of olives, giving consumers a choice ranging from small to super colossal (yes, colossal is the actual term).
- Harvest season starts in September and goes into November. It begins while the olives are still green, but begin to show a little darkening color. To assure absolute quality, harvesting is done by hand.
- Sorting, grading and storage are done at one of California’s two olive processing plants.
- Curing is essential to the process because olives straight off the tree are much too bitter to eat.
- Canning is the final step. Ripe olives are canned in a mild salt brine solution and, because they are a low-acid product, are heat sterilized under strict California State health rules.
The Olive Nutrition Profile
Technically olives are fruits and are available year round in the grocery store. They can be eaten alone, as a garnish and as an ingredient in many recipes.
An extra large Black Ripe Olive has approximately seven calories each (1). So a snack size of three is about 21 to 25 calories.
California Ripe Olives have two grams of fat in a 15 gram serving. This serving equals 6 small olives or 3 extra large olives (1). The majority of fat in olives come from oleic acid which is monounsaturated fat, the most important fat found in the Mediterranean food pattern.
(Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory) Olives contain a range of phenolic compounds; these natural antioxidants may contribute to the prevention of chronic health conditions (including both heart and Alzheimer’s diseases). There are numerous factors that can affect the phenolics in olives including the cultivar, degree of ripening, and importantly, the methods used for curing and processing them (2). More specific research is needed to fill in the gaps in this part of olive nutrition.
What is your favourite way to enjoy olives in your meals and snacks? And let me know what you think of the Mexican Turkey Burger with California Ripe Olives.
Enjoy a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!
1.Olive Nutrition Information. California Ripe Olives cited June 7, 2013.
2. Charoenprasert S, Mitchell A. Factors influencing phenolic compounds in table olives (Olea europaea). J Agric Food Chem.2012;Jul 25;60(29):7081-95.