Where you live (your “climate zone”) will determine which varieties of temperate tree fruit and nut crops will perform best in your home garden, when fruits and nuts are harvested, and which pest and disease problems are more common. This table describes selected varieties that are suitable for home gardeners in California. The number of varieties could easily be doubled or tripled if all heirloom varieties and newer varieties available at nurseries or through mail order were included.
Certain varieties are superb eaten fresh. Other varieties tend to be used more often for cooking, canning, and freezing. Experts do not always agree about which varieties are best suited for various uses because individual tastes differ. Thus, the comments in the table regarding these issues are offered as points of interest only, not as official advice endorsed by the UC.
(Olea europaea L.)
The olive tree is an evergreen tree that performs best in hot, dry areas of California; it does not tolerate wet winter soils. It is an attractive ornamental, produces table fruit, and oil. Crop production is irregular under cool coastal conditions. Rooted cuttings are used without specific rootstocks. Space trees 16-20 ft apart. Olives for canning and pickling are usually harvested in September and October in California.
Commercially, heavy crops of small fruit unsuited for canning are left on the trees until January or February and harvested for their oil. Some new varieties grow specifically for oil have recently been imported into California from the Mediterranean countries.
– Ascolano – Large fruited variety, the most cold hardy of all table varieties in California. Large fruit. Oil is very aromatic.
– Manzanillo – The main variety used for the black “California”-style olive. Low spreading, medium-sized tree, early-maturing fruit with a medium oil content. Trees are susceptible to cold injury, peacock spot, and olive knot.
– Sevillano – Largest fruit. Many minor problems.
– Arbequina – A variety from northern Spain that produces a very high quality fruity oil. Fruit is small. Very fruitful.
– Frantoio – Italian variety used as one of the main ingredients in gourmet olive oil production. Very high oil content and excellent flavor.
– Leccino – Italian variety used in olive oil blends with ‘Frantoio’. Ripens a little earlier than other varieties.
– Maurino – Italian variety used in olive oil blends. Very flavorful, spicy oil.
– Mission – Medium-sized fruit. High oil content. Late maturing. Trees are very cold tolerant and grow quite tall. Can be used for table fruit or oil.
– Pendolino – Italian variety used in olive oil blends. Also used as a pollenizer.