A Primer On the Arbequina Olive We Grow and Use for Our Olive Oil

When people ask us about our different extra virgin olive oils, we begin by saying: “Think of extra virgin olive oil like wine.” Just like different wines are made from different grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc, different olive oils are made from different olives. Each olive varietal has its own flavor profile and personality, just like wine grapes. Here’s a look at one of the three olives we use: Arbequina. We’ll focus on our other two olives in future posts.

Hundreds of varieties of olives are grown around the globe. We grow three in northern California: Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki. We use the olives to make single varietal oils — namely our Arbequina and Arbosana oils — as well as blended oils like Miller’s Blend and Everyday Fresh.

The Arbequina olive originally comes from Catalonia, in Spain. The tree is relatively small. But it’s productive and produces plenty of small green olives. It has weeping branches. The Arbequina olive resists frost well. And it ripens relatively early versus other varietals.

The Arbequina oil we make delivers a very fresh and fruity taste, with flavors of tropical fruit and fresh artichoke.

Arbequina is one of the more delicate tasting olive oils. “It’s a flavor that everyone can approach,” says Nancy Ash, a trained olive oil taster and owner of the consulting firm Strictly Olive Oil. “It has a lot of good fruit aroma to it.”

Arbequina happens to be our No. 1 olive crop. We have more than 12,000 acres of olive trees under cultivation in California. And Arbequina accounts for 78% of that. Like our two other olive varietals, we plant our Arbequina trees using a special system: The trees are spaced much more closely together than in a traditional olive grove. That allows us to harvest the olives more quickly and rush them to the mill to make the oil.

Arbequina also is the top olive among olive growers here in the Golden state. A 2009 report from the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, found that Arbequina accounts for more than three-quarters of California’s acreage that’s planted using the same type of planting system we use.

Arbequina goes well drizzled over meats to bring out the meat’s sweetness. It’s great in salad dressings and pesto. (Click here to see blog post about pairing delicate oils like Arbequina with different foods.)

We also recommend using Arbequina for baking, particularly when substituting olive oil for butter. We  like it in brownies and other chocolate dishes. It would be good in pound cake, too.

And we’ve used it to make fabulous ice cream. An added treat: Top the ice cream with a drizzle of Arbequina and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt!

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch

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