California Ripe Olives Deliver

Emily Lycopolus discussing California Ripe Olives
Emily Lycopolus discussing California Ripe Olives

When I think of olives, I think about olives coming from Europe.  They are typically brined and salty.  But there is an alternative; California Ripe Olives.  I was invited to a lunch with to learn about how olives are grown and processed in California. Our host was Emily Lycopolus, a level-two olive oil sommelier and author of eight cookbooks.  This is what I learned:

  • 95% of olives produced in North America come from California and these olive trees were planted between 50-60 years ago.  
  • plantings follow intensive farming with approximately 800-1000 trees per acre.
  • it takes approximately 4-5 years to produce commercially viable olives and once a branch is pruned it takes one year for olives to form again on the pruned branch.  
  • you get approximately 1,000 olives per 25+-year-old tree
  • olive trees can live for 750-2000 years!
  • olive trees are drought tolerant which helps with global warming effects.
  • it takes 1000 days for an olive to mature once the tree has flowered.
  • all of the flavour in olive oil comes from the flesh.  The oil has no taste.
  • olives are a good source of Omega-9 fatty acids.

During our lunch, we tasted a green and a black California olive, a green Spanish olive, and a black Greek Kalamata olive, and learned about how each was processed.  The Spanish olive is washed quickly in sodium hydroxide (less than 12 hrs), rinsed with water several times and then put in a lemon+vinegar brine for 18-24 months.  Greek Kalamata olives just undergo a salt+vinegar brine.  Green California Ripe olives get a 7-day sodium hydroxide bath, with alternating rinsing with water over that time period, then sealed in cans with water then heated for 12 minutes.  For the California black olives, the same process is undertaken plus oxygen (aeration) and organic iron salt is added to make the olives turn black via fermentation.  The California olives are also pitted with the pits sent to energy co-generation plants instead of a landfill.

Lunch with Olives

We enjoyed the green and black California ripe olives in three dishes for lunch:

  • Burrata Pugliese complemented with green olive salsa verde, black olive streusel, almond & anchovy gremolata
  • Black olive crusted tuna with tahini vichyssoise, haricots verts, cucumber, green olive vinaigrette
  • Dark chocolate & black olive fondant with olive oil ice cream, topped with a black olive crumb
Three dishes with California ripe olives as an ingredient
Three dishes with California ripe olives as an ingredient tasted with a BC Pinot Gris and a glass of Sea Cider Temperance AVA cider.

I did sample these three dishes with a glass of BC Pinot Gris.  It was complementary with the first two dishes but needed a bit more acidity to really make the pairings sing.  The dessert was excellent on its own with the black olive and dark chocolate meshing, and tasty olive oil ice cream.  As these olives are not salty, they integrate well with other ingredients.  I get a softer, buttery texture from the green olive and a crunchier texture from the black olive. 

Neither California Ripe Olives were bitter or salty due to their water packaging.  Healthy.

Thank you to The Vancouver Club for hosting this lunch.

Where Can I Buy These Olives?

I was told that COSTCO carries these olives.  I am sure that other stores in the future will also be selling these quality olives.  Enjoy.

Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.