These questions have been asked many times over the years. There are several varieties of olives available today. Some produce large fruits while others produce small ones. They all taste different and some even taste bitter!

So which one should I choose if I want to grow my own fresh food?

The question is not easy to answer because there are so many factors involved. You need to consider the climate, soil type, size of the fruit, how it’s going to be used (eat or make into jam), and other considerations. To help you out, here are some facts about each variety of olive:

How Do I Choose A Type Of Olive Tree?

There are two main types of olives – sweet and bitter. Sweet olives are usually grown in warmer climates and they ripen earlier than their bitter cousins.

Sweet Olives:

Are the easiest to grow. They’re easy to prune, plant, harvest and replant.

They don’t require much care either.

Bitter Olives:

Have a longer season of ripening and are harder to grow but yield larger quantities of tasty fruit when ripe.

Arbequina Olive Tree

There are over 20 varieties of olives grown in California (the U.S.

grows 95% of all the world’s olive trees). This is a list of the most common types you’ll find in stores and markets:

Arbequina (ahr-beck-een-ah) – This tree produces smallish fruits that have a mild flavor and a balanced taste of oil and vinegar.

Arbosana (ahr-boh-sah-nah) – Grown primarily in Italy, this tree yields a slightly oily fruit with a peppery taste.

Cerignola (sur-in-yaw-lah) – Also called the Italian Large Olive, it’s grown primarily in Italy and is large, green and oval shaped. It has a mild flavor similar to the arbequina.

Koroneiki (core-oh-nay-key) – Grown primarily in Greece, this variety is similar to the cerignola in size and shape. It has a slightly stronger more bitter taste than the arbequina.

Leccino (leh-chen-oh) – This is grown primarily in Italy and is oval shaped with a pointed end. The leccino has a smooth rich flavor that makes it popular for both eating and cooking.

Manzanillo (mahn-sah-NEE-yoh) – This olive grows primarily in southern Spain and is considered by many to be the best tasting olive for eating. It is heart-shaped, medium sized and has a rich flavor.

Olive Growing

Non-variety types: There are also several types of olives that haven’t been given an official name yet. They are simply referred to as “wild” types and include the following:

Berryessa (bair-air-ESS-ah) – Also known as the Sierra Nevada Olive, this tree grows wild in Northern California and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is much smaller than other types of olives and has a very bitter taste.

Lampalla (lam-PAH-lah) – Grows wild in the Mediterranean, this olive is large, woody and inedible. It’s mostly used for oil.

Lanzar (lan-zahr) – This small tree or large bush grows primarily in Morocco and the Middle East. The fruit is small but has a very rich flavor.

Mills (milz) – This tree grows wild in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly around Turkey and Iraq. The fruit is oval shaped, small and not as high quality for eating or oil but it’s very high in antioxidants.

Common Types:

There are several common types of olives grown around the world. Most of these can be grown in California with little trouble.

This is not an inclusive list but a general idea of what to expect:

Albanian Olive (al-buh-NAHN) – This evergreen tree produces high quality fruits that are great for oil but they aren’t eaten as much as some of the other varieties. They are oval shaped and green when mature.

Bottleneck Olive (bot-tlen-bel) – This tree can grow to be quite old and produces a fair amount of fruit. The fruit is a light purple when mature and has a nice taste and high oil content.

Common Olive (co-mihn) – This is probably the most common type of olive that people think of when they hear the word “olive”. The tree is drought resistant and quite hardy.

Cerignola (sur-in-YO-lah) – Also known as the Italian Large Olive, this evergreen tree grows best in coastal regions. The fruit is large, green and oval shaped with a mild flavor and high oil content.

Frantoio (frahn-TWAH-yoh) – This tree originated in Italy and is grown primarily for the fruit. It’s oval shaped and dark green when mature with a rich, buttery flavor.

It has a relatively high oil content as well.

Mission Olive (miss-sahn) – This evergreen tree is hardy and can tolerate most conditions but it isn’t grown much anymore. The fruit is green when mature with a medium oil content and fairly bland flavor.

Pisquola (peas-qwah) – This evergreen tree is native to Central America and the fruit is only grown for flavor, not oil. It is light green when mature and has a unique, sweet flavor.

Rovella (roh-VAY-lah) – This evergreen tree comes from Italy and bears a medium sized fruit with a glossy skin and rich flavor. It has a high oil content as well.

Sicilian Olive (she-chel-ee-AHN) – This tree is grown throughout the Mediterranean Sea region. The fruit is oval shaped, green when mature and has a rich, bold flavor with high oil content.

Types Of Olive Tree (zone 6) – Olive Growing

Specialty Types:

There are several specialty types of olives grown in various regions. They include:

Bulgarian Olive – This evergreen tree hails from Bulgaria and the fruit is oval shaped with a medium oil content and bland flavor.

Bulgarian Carpathian Olive – This evergreen tree has Latin origins and the fruit is similar to the Bulgarian Olive in every way.

Emperor Olive – This evergreen tree comes from Australia and the fruit is nearly round, green when mature and has a rich flavor.

Hercules Olive – This evergreen tree is a hybrid of the Common Olive and has fruit that is similar but a bit larger.

Koroneiki Olive – This evergreen tree hails from Greece and the fruit is oval shaped, green when mature and has a rich flavor.

Lucques Olive (loohk) – This evergreen tree comes from France and the fruit is similar to the Common Olive but oval shaped with a medium oil content.

Manzanillo Olive – This evergreen tree hails from Mexico and the fruit is similar to the Common Olive but oval shaped with a medium oil content.

Moroccan Olive – This evergreen tree comes from Morocco and the fruit is oval shaped with a high oil content and bland flavor.

Neapolitan Olive –This evergreen tree is a hybrid of the Common Olive and has fruit that is similar but a bit larger.

N Half French Olive – This evergreen tree is a hybrid of the Common Olive and has fruit that is similar but a bit larger.

Picholine Olive (pih-KO-layn) – This evergreen tree comes from France and the fruit is oval shaped with a medium oil content and bland flavor.

Sicilian Olive – This evergreen tree is a hybrid of the Common Olive and has fruit that is similar but a bit larger.

Taggiasche Olive – This evergreen tree hails from Italy and the fruit is oval shaped, green when mature and has a rich flavor.

Tuscan Olive – This evergreen tree comes from Italy and the fruit is oval shaped with a medium oil content and bland flavor.

Turkish Olive (tyew-KRAYSS) – This evergreen tree is grown in the Eastern Mediterranean and the fruit is oval shaped with a medium oil content and bland flavor.

Sources & references used in this article:

Substantial genetic diversity in cultivated Moroccan olive despite a single major cultivar: a paradoxical situation evidenced by the use of SSR loci by B Khadari, J Charafi, A Moukhli, M Ater – Tree Genetics & Genomes, 2008 – Springer

The effect of land parameters on vegetation performance and degree of erosion under Mediterranean conditions by C Kosmas, NG Danalatos, S Gerontidis – Catena, 2000 – Elsevier

Water relations and yield of olive tree (cv. Chemlali) in response to partial root-zone drying (PRD) irrigation technique and salinity under arid climate by M Ghrab, K Gargouri, H Bentaher… – Agricultural Water …, 2013 – Elsevier

Heat-pulse measurements of sap flow in olives for automating irrigation: tests, root flow and diagnostics of water stress by JE Fernández, MJ Palomo, A Dıaz-Espejo… – Agricultural Water …, 2001 – Elsevier

Plant genotype-specific archaeal and bacterial endophytes but similar Bacillus antagonists colonize Mediterranean olive trees by V Ivanova, Y Pelovski – Journal of the University of Chemical Technology and …, 2006

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