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The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree

The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree
Judith M. Taylor
Ten Speed Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 316 p., $32.50

In The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree, the author examines the early uses of the olive for food and oil, and through the course of his book extends his research through today's challenges to an important agricultural industry in California. The history of the olive in California is the tale of men and women responsible for this olive culture, and their successes and failures along the way.

Historically, the olive has had great importance to mankind. In earliest times, olives were a source of lamp oil and found their way into the meals of a variety of cultures. The olive tree was brought to the Spanish missions of California in the 17th century. Records of the California Olive Association from 1915 through 2000 reflect labor, transportation, marketing and environmental problems and solutions. A key discovery was a method to reduce the risks of botulism from canning, which then opened a national and international market for California olives. The University of California played an important role in resolving many of these issues, and its vital contributions continue today with research aimed at better ways to grow, harvest and preserve both the oil and the table fruit.

Excellent appendices provide a chronology of the olive in California, a list of olive oil makers, olive processing companies and olive cultivars imported into California, together with synonyms for some olive cultivars, sources of olive trees in California and early California nurseries. The bibliography is extensive.

The Olive in California will be of value to those interested in California's growth as an agricultural giant in general, and in the importance of the olive industry to that enormous growth in particular.

— Elaine Juhl, Master Gardener and Volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden