It’s gold rush time in the Sacramento Valley. Liquid gold that is, in the form of olive oil. Cobram Estate, which makes California grown extra virgin olive oil in Woodland, gave us a first hand look at harvest and the importance of olive oil to our region.
The Sacramento Valley is prime olive oil territory. So much so that Boundary Bend, an Australian olive oil company, and the umbrella company to Cobram Estate, came to this region in search of the perfect place to produce a great tasting extra virgin California olive oil.
“This is the preferred growing climate in the state,” said Adam Englehardt, President of Cobram Estate.
Weather, soil conditions and the low irrigation needs of olive trees make the Sacramento Valley a sweet spot for producing olive oil.
Eighty percent of Cobram Estate olives come from Yolo county, with the remaining 20 percent coming from Sutter and Glenn counties.
Harvest in high gear
Once harvested, olives go from tree to processing within 6 hours. The fruit must be perfect to make it into the bottle. Specialized machines sort and photograph the fruit to ensure only the best olives go from tree to table.
The harvest season is long, Cobram Estate expects olive harvest to continue through December this year.
Olive Oil 101
In many parts of parts of the planet, olive oil accompanies every meal. It sits like ketchup on the table, as a condiment of choice. In Australia, olive oil consumption is three times higher than that of the U.S., in Greece and Spain, twenty and fourteen times higher, respectively.
“There is a huge potential for growth here,” said Englehardt.
Progress depends on exposure and education. Most Americans reach for vegetable, corn or canola oil. Olive oil is not as common culturally. Perhaps the abundance of olives growing in our great valley will change all that.
When you buy your next bottle of olive oil, keep these three things in mind:
Go golden state: Look for California grown olive oil. The COOC (California Olive Oil Council) certification symbol, usually on the back of the bottle, assures that all olives used in the oil are California grown, are true to grade, and are from the latest harvest.
Fresh first: Check out the harvest and use by dates, also on the back of the bottle. Olive oil, unlike wine, does not get better with age. Once you open a bottle, use it within 4 weeks.
Darkness matters: Light and heat are the enemy of olive oil. Look for dark colored bottles and store your olive oil in a cool, dark location.
Olive grove and harvest photos by Sam Wells.