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Arbequina-Illan: An Olive Tree’s Strength And Resilience In Olive Production

“Thanks to Phoenician and Greek navigation routes, olive trees reached the coasts of Sicily and Spain, where they spread widely in the 5th century BC. Between the 6th and 4th century BC, its cultivation was established in many regions of Italy and Spain by the Romans.” - Juan Vilar Hernandez 

Texas Olives - Foraging and Farming

The olive is sacred and symbolizes permanence, renewal, peace, and joy. It is the emblem of the State of Israel. The Hebrew name Illan means a tree rooted in strength and a bright light. Olives are also symbolically connected to the concepts of joy and prosperity as they relate to living a rich and full life.  Olives are also a part of humanity, providing economy, culture, history, and environmental support. 

The History Of Olive Production In The United States

The first shipment of cultivated olive trees to North America is documented to be in 1531 by the Spaniards, who recorded The Royal Certificate of August as a protected shipment of both grapevines and olive trees to North America. The 1700s brought the Franciscan and Jesuit priests to America with olive cuttings, and the first olive trees were planted for observation in San Diego, on the Mexican border. 

By the mid-1700s, Franciscan Fathers established missions along the coast of California, planting figs, stonefruits, and olives. After several failed attempts, they reached success by the late 1870s, when they launched the first olive oil factory in Ventura, California. Today, California holds first place for the largest olive grower in the United States. With over 50,000 acres planted and 125,000 tons produced, there are 1,000 olive growers statewide.  

Texas Olives - Foraging and Farming

Texas Olive Production 

Texas is the second largest olive producer in the United States, with an estimated 250 growers, 4,000 planted acres, and nearly 200,000 trees.  Despite the deep freezes Texas has suffered over the past few years, the number of live plantings is increasing.  In the State of Texas, 90% of the olives grown have been pressed for oil, and a small percentage are being brined for curated products. 

The risk of planting olive trees in Texas is that 3 out of 10 growing years pose a weather risk of freezing and killing tree stock. Olives grow best in East, Central, and Southwest Texas. This strong-rooted tree reaches 15’-20’ tall and yields some of the best fruit for oils and curated products. Texas is well-suited with a hot and dry climate, sandy loam soils, and the ability to house 48 trees per acre. An olive tree’s strength comes from its deep roots in the ground. Its trunk is between 12' and 20’ tall; there are at least seven varieties stable enough to handle Texas’s climate extremes.   

Texas Olives - Foraging and Farming

An Olive’s Flavor Profiles 

Texas-cultivated olive trees are designed to be resilient, like the varietal Arbequina. These deeply rooted olive trees have rich and deep flavor profiles and are one of the best for growing in Texas because temperatures can dip below freezing. Because of its resilience to cold temperatures, the Arbequina olive tree has a better chance of survival in inclement weather. The Arbequina Olive is low acid, fresh, mildly fruity, and with a bit of pepper on the finish. 

Olive Flavor Profiles

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