The Surprising New Places for Olive Oil in America

American Olive Oil Producers

When you hear olive oil, you probably think Italy, Greece or even France. While 95% of the total production of olive oil takes place in Europe and North Africa, some of the most promising producers of the traditional Mediterranean staple are actually closer to home.

In the context of declining sales of table olives in America, increased export subsidies to European table olive producers and greater awareness of the benefits of olive oil and Omega 3s,  American olive farmers have started to manufacture their own olive oil.

From Chile to California and even Texas, passionate artisans are helping change the way people experience olive oil back home. Here are some of the top spots for olive oils in North and South America.

Chile

Blessed with good weather and fertile soil, Chile has been producing olive oil since…
Mostly organized in Co-ops, olive oil producers have gained a reputation for their superior, clean, sweet extra virgin olive oils.

With fruitier, richer flavors than commercial Mediterranean olive oils, Elvio Olave and Las Docientas’ organic oils and blends have done much to establish Chile as one of the top countries for olive oils in the World. The production is still kept local and artisanal, but keep an eye for 1492 if you prefer a more traditional, unique product.

California

The closest to the Tuscan soil and climate, the Golden State is leading the way for premium olive oil production in the United States. Largely grown in the Wine Country and Napa Valley, olive crops have been burgeoning since the 2007, growing ten-fold.

Producers are increasingly aware of the global competition and aim and have urged the California FDA to help raise the standards of local oil production by setting up a certification process to guarantee purity and quality. Make sure you buy ‘refined olive oil’ and ‘olive pomace free’ oils.

Top microbrewers include Beltane Ranch, Stone Edge and Napa’s Cypress
Hill, but the trend seems to be towards flavored olive oils. O Olive Oil, produced in Petaluma, CA or The Olive Press in Sonoma, CA, make exceptional products, including Jalapeno, Tahitian Lime or Meyer Lemon infused olive oils.

However, nothing replace fresh-pressed olive oil, which tastes at its best in November (Olio Nuovo), or right after it has settled, typically around March.

Texas

The New Frontier for olive oil, Texas has some boasts an emerging olive oil scene and some of the most interesting products.

A pioneer in the Texas olive industry, Jim Henry has been a pioneer, producing extra virgin olive oil from the fruit of about 40,000 olive trees he’s been raising at his Texas Olive Ranch for eight years.

His blackberry, pomegranate or basil infused ‘Rattlesnake’ oils has all been the rage at the Los Angeles County Fair in 2012, winning four medals for outstanding taste, character, complexity and quality.

Georgia

Records show that Spanish colonists planted olive groves along the coast of the Peach State in the 18th C. that persisted to this day. Today, Georgia boasts some of the top olive co-ops, like Georgia Olive Farms and local artisans are pressing some of the finest olive oil in the country.

Among them, Terra Dolce Farms received a Gold Award by the New York International Olive Oil Competition last year for their medium intensity Arbequina oil. With a mild, nutty flavor, the oil works especially well for anything from sautéeing vegetables to making pestos or homemade marinade. Terra Dolce Farms are among the most expected contestant for the show coming up this April.
Florida

Citrus production may be on the decline, but olive oil production is up in the Sunshine State. For over 50 years, Olive Oil Tree Farms have been delivering a variety of trees and gourmet olive oils. From Mission olives to Arbequina, Manzanello or Barouni, they have been one of the earliest olive tree growers in the region.

Olive oil production is however nascent. From experimental farms set up by the Florida Olive Oil Council to microfarms, like Green Gate Olive Grove in Jacksonville, Florida is hoping to catch up with other States and put FL on the map as a top olive oil land. Much is happening, but we could be waiting between 5 to 7 years to get a taste of the Florida local olive oil.

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Eva du Monteil is a culinary trained food and wine critic living in NYC. When she is not exploring the country in search for the next hidden gem, she enjoys eating, drinking and cooking in the company of her friends, chefs and fine purveyors of epicurean experiences. While she loves NYC, she believes some of the most exciting food and drink scenes at the moment include Portland, Los Angeles, Austin, Miami, and Philadelphia.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: New York International Olive Oil Competition

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