The Q&A Archives: olive trees

Question: What are some top choice varieties of olive trees which are grown for their fruit?

Answer: Choose from the following selections:
Ascolano - Very large, ellipsoidal fruit. Skin color very light even when ripe, pit very small. Fruit is tender and must be handled carefully. Contains very little bitterness and requires only moderate lye treatment. Excellent for pickles, but needs proper aeration during pickling to develop "ripe" color. Tree a heavy bearer, widely adapted.

Barouni - Large fruit, almost as large as Sevillano. Trees spreading and easy to harvest. Withstands extremely high temperatures. The variety usually shipped to the East Coast for making home-cured olives. Originally from Tunisia.

Gordal - Medium to large, plump fruit, ripening early. Resembles Sevillano. A popular pickling olive and principal cultivar in Spain, producer of most of the world's table olives.

Manzanillo - Large, rounded-oval fruit. Skin brilliant purple, changing to deep blue-black when mature. Resists bruising. Ripens early, several weeks earlier than Mission. The pulp parts readily with its bitterness and is exceedingly rich when pickled. Excellent for oil and pickles. Tree spreading, vigorous, a prolific bearer.

Mission - Medium-sized, oval fruit. Skin deep purple changing to jet-black when ripe. Flesh very bitter but firm, freestone. Ripens rather late. Good for pickling and oil, specially ripe pickles. Most widely used for cold-pressed olive oil in California. Tree vigorous, heavy-bearing. More cold resistant than other cultivars. Grown at the old missions in California.

Picholine - Small, elongated fruit. Skin light green, changing to wine red, then red-black when ripe. Pulp fleshy, firm-textured. Tree vigorous, medium-sized, bears heavy crops regularly. Cured olives have a delicate, subtle, lightly salty, nut-like flavor. Usually salt-brine cured. Popular in gourmet and specialty markets.

Rubra - Medium-small, ovate fruit. Skin jet-black when ripe. Ripens 3 to 4 weeks earlier than Mission. Best suited for oil, but is also used for pickling. Tree large, precocious, often producing fruit the second year. An exceptionally prolific bearer. Very hardy and reliable even in dry situations.

Sevillano - Very large fruit, bluish-black when ripe. The largest California commercial variety. Stone large, clinging. Ripens early. Low oil content, only useful in pickling. Used for making Sicilian style salt brine cured olives, also the leading canning cultivar. A strong grower and regular bearer. Requires deep, rich, well drained soil.

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