We use olive oil in our household and always make sure it comes from the Sacramento Valley. But until recently, my knowledge of the area’s olive oil was limited to using it and taking photos of the harvest.
Olive oil production is a growth industry in the Sacramento Valley. There are about 35,000 acres of olives planted in California for production of extra virgin olive oil according to the California Olive Oil Council. Upon review of county agriculture commissioner reports, I estimate that about 14,500 acres are located in Sacramento Valley.
There are lots of great qualities to extra virgin olive oil and a great resource is the California Olive Oil Council, which sets standards for the oil. Also, the University of California at Davis has the Olive Center, which states it is a self-funded university/industry coalition that seeks to do for olives what UC Davis did for wine. UC Davis is doing research on both the culinary and medical benefits of olive oil.
I visited Blair Voltz of BV Farms in Dunnigan during harvest to learn more about olive production. Olives are very drought tolerant, using only about half the amount of water as most other orchards. They are machine harvested and taken immediately to the mill to be pressed into oil to preserve freshness. It was neat to have the opportunity to ride in the cab of the harvester and on the back deck. Had a great view of the orchard and the surrounding countryside!
To learn about making oil, I visited one of Woodland’s newest food companies, Boundary Bend Olives. Boundary Bend is an Australian company that has expanded to this area in order to take advantage of the fresh and high quality fruit. They have just started production of oil from local orchards. Theirs and other plants in the area will help establish olive oil production on a larger scale.
Sacramento Valley olive oil is available from both large and small producers. It’s always on our kitchen counter and I hope it is on yours too. A quick internet search turned up many recipes for rice using olive oil, a perfect Sacramento Valley combination.