Olives– From Tree to Table

Highlights:

  • Olives grow best in Mediterranean climates
  • Olive oil becoming more popular for health reason
  • Olives used in spreads and breads
Olive Fruit at Albertson's

Olive Fruit at Albertson's

Olive oil is becoming more widespread as a daily household item because of its health benefits. In fact, Darci Malone (a Parks and Recreation junior at Cal Poly) says that when she thinks of olives, she thinks of olive oil before she thinks of the actual fruit.
Whether you prefer your olives in oil or fruit form, some might wonder how olives come to be on their table.

Olives grow best in Mediterranean climates like California and Italy. They grow on trees until they are ready to be harvested. Olives used for oil tend to change from a green color to a red color when this happens.

The olives are shaken from the trees and brought into factories, where they are sent through water to get rid of any leaves and twigs. If the fruit is being made into olive oil, the process continues like this:

  • The olives are crushed into a paste
  • After this point the paste is kept at a regulated temperature to separate the oil from the rest of the paste
  • Then, the paste is sent through metal plates, which the oil adheres to
  • The oil is then spun to get rid of any excess paste remnants

Video from Discovery Channel’s “How It’s Made” (watch first 6 minutes for in-depth process)

Olive Oil at Albertson's

Olive Oil at Albertson's

Recently, mass produced olive oil has been in the news because research is finding that some brands of oil don’t sell the “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” that they claim to sell. This has lead to a slight decrease in sales.

Ron Sanders, owner of Alta Cresta Olive Orchard in Paso Robles, elaborated on the olive oil market today:

“Table olives are familiar to American consumers, so they are usually successful. Olive oil is growing in popularity because of its health benefits. The problem is that really good olive oil tends to be expensive, and that’s holding the industry back a little bit. Our goal right now is to educate people about it, showing that the benefits outweigh the price, and that a smaller bottle of oil can last you a month or more.”—Ron Sanders

Olive Bread by Kevin Grayson 2010

Olive Bread by Kevin Grayson 2010

The higher quality olive oil is also often produced by smaller operations, which tend to sell their product locally. This aspect is likely a contributor to the higher costs.

In addition to the growing market for olive oil, many companies who produce table olives are starting to come up with different ways to use them as a means of keeping up with the changing market.

“Table olives are the most successful product for us, but that’s partially because we make products that you can’t find at the grocery store. Our top items are our olive spreads and smoked olives.”—Rosemarie Fusano, owner of Fusano Olive Company

No matter how you choose to consume olives, be it the fruit or the oil, the idea is still the same. Now you know a little bit more about how olives get from the tree to your table. And as consumers’ palettes get more accustomed to olive oil, we will likely see the market skyrocket (especially since it has many health benefits).

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