Old Olives

Grown from trees planted soon after the Gold Rush, these heritage olives, while not rivaling the centuries old trees in Europe and Asia, are, by California standards, positively ancient.

Heritage harvest
Olive oil from trees planted in the 1860s has become a big hit for UC Davis
By Bill Lindelof – Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, September 29, 2007

The fruit of Yolo County olive trees owned by UC Davis and planted nearly 150 years ago by one of Northern California’s early pioneers is finding new customers.

John R. Wolfskill, who worked for $100 a year when he came to California in the 1830s, planted the trees in 1861. He could hardly have anticipated Wolfskill olive oil selling along with sweat shirts in the University of California, Davis bookstore.

But Wolfskill olive oil — delicate, buttery with a hint of artichoke flavor — is a hit. Wolfskill oil, $13 for about 8.5 ounces, sells out in a matter of a few weeks.

“It is our most popular olive oil, partly because of the history of the Wolfskill ranch,” said UC Davis Olive Oil Manager Dan Flynn.

University and federal government researchers have used the 107-acre Wolfskill ranch for decades. In the 1940s, a research assistant grafted nearly 100 imported olive varieties to Wolfskill’s Mission olive tree rootstock, creating what has been described as the most extensive olive collection in North America.

Shoots from Italy, Portugal, Egypt, South Africa, France, Morocco, Syria, Australia, Algeria, Greece and Spain were grafted onto Wolfskill trees.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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