Olives have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, long before the canning industry, grocery stores, and martinis came into play. But a few decades ago, your average American knew only a few varieties—some were green, some were black, some were pitted, and the best ones were pimento-stuffed...and that was that.
Yet olives are fantastically diverse and equally versatile, whether ground into spreads and tapenades, tossed into salads, simmered in stews and sauces, plopped into martinis, or eaten straight out of hand. Their sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent flavors are singularly complex, making them an essential tool in any chef’s arsenal.
For more than a decade, we have been stocking a particular mix of California olives that come to us from M&CP Farm, located near Orland (Glenn County) in the Northern Sacramento Valley. As you drive through this region on Interstate 5, you will notice a number of billboard adds that feature the local olive crop, usually the familiar pitted California Black Olive. Olives are an important agricultural crop in this area and a trip along the side roads in the area is likely to reveal any number of farms that grow the gray-green olive tree. Maurice and Cindy Penna own one of these farms and, along with their neighbors, grow an impressive variety of olives. Maurice Penna is a recognized authority on olives and responsible for all phases of olive production for the family owned business.