20 Apr

California olive oils are growing on us

By Greg Atkinson,

Last September, when I was in California, I enjoyed a picnic in the shade of some enormous old olive trees. The tables were covered with Provençal fabrics, and when we sat down to eat, we were greeted with bright green olive oil poured onto plates for dipping the artisanal breads that awaited us in baskets. For just an instant, I was transported to some imaginary village in the south of France or northern Italy, but when I tasted the oil, I realized I was somewhere better than that, I was home on the West Coast of my own country.

This oil was like no other, so green that it fairly sparkled and so bright tasting that I wanted to eat it like soup, with a spoon.

I was attending a conference hosted by the Culinary Institute of America, and the picnic was at Wolfskill Experimental Orchards, a 70-acre parcel that serves as a horticultural research center. Maintained as a joint venture between the University of California, Davis and the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System, it’s home to thousands of varieties of food-bearing trees and vines. The oil came from California Olive Ranch, one of several sponsors of the event.

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