Corning: The Olive Capital

Corning, California, owes its spot on the map to the humble olive.

To a motorist rolling along Interstate 5 in Northern California, exit 631 looks like an ordinary freeway turnoff. Actually, it’s a pit stop of a different kind. The road curls through downtown Corning, the “Olive City,” a friendly, rural place where travelers can fill up on a certain small, firm, brine-bathed fruit.

Spanish, Green, Green Ripe, Greek, and the ever popular Big Black Olive. They even come in varied sizes from small to large and jumbo to colossal and super colossal. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanish, Green, Green Ripe, Greek, and the ever popular Big Black Olive. They even come in varied sizes from small to large and jumbo to colossal and super colossal. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corning embraces the olive and all it represents including their annual Olive Festival in August (26-27 in 2016).

The blend of climate and soils have created the perfect locale to grow olives. Lots of olives. Century old olives. More olives are grown in this region than anywhere else in the country. Prepare to be amazed how good fresh pressed olive oils and olives can taste.

Located two hours north of the historic California state capitol in Sacramento and less than an hour south of the gleaming Sundial Bridge in Redding, Olive City is much smaller than its neighbors. Less than 10,000 people live there but a typical day may see thousands upon thousands of RVs and other vehicles fly by on the Interstate that begins at the Mexico border in San Diego and continues north onto Oregon and Washington and the Canadian border south of Vancouver.

It is always fun to find those little stops along your road trip that provide something different and help you to create new memories. For us, Corning is one such road trip stop.

The olives used to make Lucero California Olive Oil are picked, pressed, bottled, and labeled at their on-site olive mill. The olives are pressed within 24 hours of picking for ultimate freshness. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The olives used to make Lucero California Olive Oil are picked, pressed, bottled, and labeled at their on-site olive mill. The olives are pressed within 24 hours of picking for ultimate freshness. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lucero Olive Oil, a third-generation olive grower, has some of the oldest olive trees in California, and many of these century-old trees continue to flourish in the Lucero family groves. This family built operation assures same-day picking and pressing at peak ripeness to capture the fresh fruity flavors of their extra virgin olive oil. The olives used to make Lucero California Olive Oil are picked, pressed, bottled, and labeled at their on-site olive mill.

During our visit, we found scrumptious goodies in each corner and on every shelf. Chocolate Infused Olive Oil drizzled over fresh strawberries with a sprinkle of Strawberry White Balsamic Vinegar over vanilla ice cream. Yum! Or, how about using the chocolate olive oil the next time you bake a cake for added chocolaty flavor? The strawberry balsamic vinegar in your next summer fruit salad? Need we say more? Good times, good food, and good job, Lucero!

Another great place for connoisseurs to relish the town’s bounty is the Olive Pit, where a tasting bar and shelves are packed with olives in almost every imaginable permutation—sliced, ground into bread mix, rendered into soap.

Over 40 years ago, Pete and Ann Craig displayed several jars of olives on a small shelf of the original Olive Pit—a frosty and hamburger stand—to see if anyone would be interested in buying their locally grown, locally produced olives. People were quick to purchase the olives and a Corning tradition was born.

Upon entering, the Olive Pit offers a tasting bar with an abundance of green olives mixed with everything from blue cheese to bacon. Visitors delight in sampling adventurous flavors like beer soaked, Texas hot chile, and jalapeño. All of these are really fun to sample.

Lucero’s ancient olive groves of Sevillano trees were imported from Spain over 100 years ago and are some of the oldest olive groves in Northern California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lucero’s ancient olive groves of Sevillano trees were imported from Spain over 100 years ago and are some of the oldest olive groves in Northern California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They also have a huge area of nuts and other goodies such as dried fruit and jams. The honey raspberry almonds and the butter toffee peanuts are heavenly. The Olive Pit also have a restaurant if you are looking to get a full meal in between samplings.

Corning, of course, is more than just olives. The Corning Museum includes displays of clothing, tools, pictures and items dating back over 100 years. The exhibits represent the cultural heritage of Corning and Tehama County.

Tehama County is surrounded by snow-covered mountains including Lassen Peak with its still active volcano in Lassen National Volcanic Park, imposing Mt. Shasta, and the rugged alpine-looking Trinity Mountain Range.

Planning a visit?

Our home base while touring the Corning area was the nearby RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our home base while touring the Corning area was the nearby RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Our home base while touring the Corning area was the RV Park at Rolling Hills Casino (Exit 628), an easy-on, easy-off, 5-star park with long pull-through sites (up to 75 feet in length) and 30/50 amp-electric service, water, and sewer conveniently located. Security patrols the park on a regular basis.

Worth Pondering…

Except the vine, there is no plant which bears a fruit of as great importance as the olive.

—Pliny (AD 23-79)

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