Olive oil is thought of as being the queen of gourmet culinary oils, both for it’s exquisite flavour and it’s health benefits. Olives have been cultivated around the Mediterranean region since ancient times. The best known and most prolific olive oil producing countries are Spain, Italy and Greece.
Olives thrive in the Mediterranean climate in warm, dry conditions with mild winters, warm summers and with well drained soils. They are also now grown in other countries, where they are not native, that share these kinds of growing conditions. The result of this is that olive oil is produced in the Americas, South Africa, Australia and California.
Olives have been cultivated by the Spanish colonists in California since the 18th century. They were originally bought to Southern California by the Spanish missionaries who created missions with olive groves within them. The industry remained dormant until the 1990s when commercial olive cultivation and olive oil production was re-established. Fast forwarding to 2019, over 75 olive varieties are now grown around California.
The California Olive Oil Council was established in Berkeley, California in 1992. The organisation was set up to promote the Californian olive oil industry and ensure that stringent standards are met by producers. Another of their functions is to educate the public about olive oil, to enable them to buy and enjoy extra virgin olive oil in it’s prime condition.
I recently spoke to Patricia Darragh, the Executive Director of the California Olive Council, about the work that her organisation does. You can hear the interview by clicking on the play button below.