It took me a while to come around to the taste of olives. In my youth, I found them bitter in taste and mushy in texture. As my palate matured, I began to like them more and more. I tend to eat olives as a snack with bread and oil. I am still not keen on olives as a pizza topping or in salad.
My various journeys to the Mediterranean for business—I am a freelance writer—and pleasure sparked my interest in olive trees. I had not realized the importance of them in the cuisine and economy of the nations in that region until I immersed myself deeper in their respective cultures. The following article summarizes what I learned about olive trees and their different types.
What are Olive Trees?
They are native to the Mediterranean. Olive trees are one of the oldest cultivated trees in history, being first mentioned in literature around 3000 BCE. The olive is a member of the fruit family. Olive trees are always green, which means that they leave all year round.
There are two categories of olive trees: wild and cultivated. Wild trees can grow up to 30 feet tall. Cultivated trees are regularly pruned to keep them to a manageable size.
Olive trees can be grown in a wide range of conditions. However, they are best grown in soil that is sandy and well-drained and in areas that get plenty of sun. That said, olive trees have a high tolerance for drought and can survive on as little as 12 inches of rainfall a year.
Types of Olive Trees
Here are some of the main types of olive trees. Most of these trees are grown in Mediterranean nations.
1. Amfissa Olive Tree
This tree has its origins in the Peloponnese region of Greece. It has a large size and round shape. The fruit of the tree is large and black. The Amfissa olive tree is used for high-quality oil and is also used as an ornament.
The Amfissa is popular among those who like to grow olive trees in their garden.
2. Arbequina Olive Tree
This is a small evergreen tree that comes from the town of Arbeca in Catalonia, Spain. It is small with oval-shaped leaves and a glossy green color with silvery-white undersides. Arbequina trees are easy to grow, and they tolerate a wide range of soils. This makes them a popular choice for home gardens.
3. Cailletier Olive Tree
This olive tree is native to the South of France. It has large dark green leaves that sprout black olives. The latter is used to make oil. The tree itself is often used as an ornamental plant.
The Cailletier tree is tolerant of a wide range of soils, is fairly drought-resistant, and is not as susceptible to destruction to pests and diseases as other types of trees.
4. Cerignola Olive Tree
This tree is grown primarily in the province of Foggia in the Apulia region of Italy. It produces large black olives, which are used for table olives and from which oil is extracted. The tree is resistant to pests and diseases and can withstand cold temperatures.
5. Chemlali Olive Tree
This tree is native to the Chemlal in Algeria. The leaves are oblong-shaped and can grow up to 12 cm long. The tree grows fruit. The latter are large and oval-shaped. The fruit is bitter and is used to produce olive oil. This tree is grown in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Syria.
6. Coratina Olive Tree
This tree is native to Puglia in Southern Italy. It has a fruity, peppery flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is one of the more robust olive oils. It is best used for cooking, as it can withstand high temperatures without losing its flavor.
7. Frantoio Olive Tree
This tree is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a large evergreen tree with a spreading canopy. The leaves are elliptical, dark green, and glossy. It produces fruit that is large, oval-shaped, and greenish-black in color. The olive tree is highly tolerant of drought conditions and can survive and thrive in dry soils. It is also resistant to diseases that affect other types of olive trees. All of these features make it a popular choice for people who grow olive trees in their gardens.
8. Gordal Sevillano Olive Tree
This tree is large: it can grow up to 20 feet tall. Its leaves are dark green and glossy. It produces fruit that is large and that ripens into a deep purple-black color. The Gordal Sevillano is one of the most popular trees grown in Spain. It is a highly productive tree and can yield up to 50 pounds of olives a year, most of which is used to make oil. The beauty of the tree makes it perfect to use as an ornament.
9. Kalamata Olive Tree
This tree is large with smooth, meaty texture. It has a distinct, fruity flavor. The tree is native to the Peloponnese region of Greece. The tree produces olives that are used in salads, pasta, bread, and pizza. Extractions from the olives are used to make olive oil and vinegar.
10. Koroneiki Olive Tree
This tree has its origins in the Peloponnese peninsula in Southern Greece. The tree itself is small, and it produces black fruit with high oil content. The latter is used in salad dressing, dips, spreads, and cooking oil. The olives from the Koroneiki tree are also used to make olive oil soap.
The relatively small size of this tree makes it a popular choice for home gardens.
11. Lecciana Olive Tree
It has dark green leaves and produces small white flowers. The tree is native to the Mediterranean but it has grown in many parts of the world. It produces small black olives, many of which are used in Mediterranean dishes. The Lecciana tree does best in full sun and well-drained soil.
12. Leccino Olive Tree
This tree is medium to large-sized. Its olives are well-known for being some of the tastiest in Italy. They are light and fruity with high oil content. They are used as starters and oil in the country. Home gardeners like the Leccino tree because it is self-fertile and easy to grow.
The Leccino tree was introduced in California in the late 1800s. It is now grown throughout the United States and many other regions in the world.
13. ‘Little Ollie’ Dwarf Olive Tree
This is the perfect olive tree for small gardens. It is small and compact, growing, at most, to half a meter in height. The leaves are small and green with a silvery-grey underside. It produces tiny black olives, which sprout in autumn.
This tree is highly tolerant of drought conditions. Because of its size, it can be grown as a patio plant in a pot or in the ground as an informal hedge or border.
14. Manzanilla Olive Tree
This tree grows a small round fruit with a thin skin. The fruit is pale green and has a large pit in the center. The flavor of the Manzanilla olive is mild and buttery with a hint of apple. The olives ripen in the fall and can be harvested from October to November.
The Manzan13. ‘Little Ollie’ dwarf olive tree illa tree is a popular choice for home gardens and orchards. It grows well in most soils and climates and is resistant to disease and pests. It does best in sunny locations and well-drained soil.
15. Maurino Olive Tree
This tree is native to Sicily. It has gnarled branches and produces small black olives. The tree is resistant to disease and can tolerate poor soils. The olives are used to make oil. The wood of the tree is used to make furniture and other objects.
The Maurino olive tree was introduced in the United States in 1876. It is now grown throughout the country and the world.
16. Mission Olive Tree
This is one of the few trees in this list that is most prevalent in the United States. The tree was first introduced to the continent through California in the 18th century—when the territory was still controlled by Spain. Franciscan friars planted the first seeds.
The Mission olive tree grows fruit that is small and black. The tree is drought-tolerant, which makes it perfect for California. The olives are used to make olive oil. The latter has a fruity-peppery flavor and is high in antioxidants.
17. Montra Olive Tree
This tree is also grown in California—Santa Cruz in particular. It is medium-sized and grows fruit that is small, oval-shaped, and black when ripe. The olive’s oil content is high and of excellent quality.
One of the more interesting things about the tree is its ability to withstand cold temperatures—as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The tree is easy to care for and produces a large amount of fruit.
18. Niçoise Olive Tree
This is an evergreen tree that can reach up to 20 feet in height. Its leaves are dark green and glossy. It produces fruit that is small, black, and bitter in flavor. The tree has its origins in the Mediterranean region and is used primarily in the production of olive oil.
The Niçoise olive tree is also quite beautiful and it is often used in southern France as a landscaping ornament.
19. Nocellara Del Belice Olive Tree
The tree is native to Sicily. It has been grown on the island for centuries. It was first introduced to the United States in the early 20th century. This tree can grow up to 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. The Nocellara del Belice olive is a self-pollinating tree, meaning that it does not need another tree to grow olives.
The olives produced by this treaty are very popular. They are large and have a mild buttery flavor. This makes them perfect to eat as they are or to use in cooking. This tree’s olives are also used to make olive oil.
20. Pendolino Olive Tree
This tree produces olives that are small and black with a long thin shape. The tree is native to Italy and was introduced to California in 1876. This is another self-fertile tree. It is also a frost-hardy tree, being able to withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Pendolino tree is compact, which makes it well-suited to grow in containers.
21. Picholine Olive Tree
This tree grows fast and can reach up to 15 feet tall. Its leaves are dark green and glossy. It produces fruit that is small and round.
The tree is very popular with home gardeners because it is easy to care for and produces large crop yields. The tree is also quite beautiful and is often used as a landscape ornament.
22. Picual Olive Tree
This olive tree is grown primarily in Spain and Portugal. It produces fruit that is oval in shape and dark green in color. The Picual tree is resistant to cold temperatures—as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also drought-resistant and can tolerate long periods without water or rainfall.
The Picual tree produces an olive with a fruity and peppery flavor. It is also used to produce oil that goes into salad dressing and other items, including cosmetics and soap-making.
The tree was introduced to the North American continent in the early 1800s through California, when that territory was still part of the Spanish empire.
23. Tsunati Olive Tree
This tree has large and glossy leaves. It produces fruit that is small and black with a rich buttery flavor. The olives are used to make olive oil. They can also be eaten fresh or put into salads.
24. Wilsoni Olive Tree
This is another fast-growing tree. It can grow up to 20 feet in height. Its leaves are dark green with a silvery sheen. It produces fruit that is small, black, and edible. This tree can withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also drought-tolerant, which means it can be grown in dry climates.