Tuscany is famous for its regional Italian cuisine and for its olive oils. Tuscan olive trees are visually the same as olive trees anywhere else. Because olive trees look virtually the same, identifying cultivars can be a challenge. The only way to definitively identify a particular cultivar of olive is to have its pit, or seed, examined by an olive expert. The grooves on the pits of each variety are unique and function like a fingerprint. However, leaf shapes can be slightly different and can indicate the probable variety of olive the tree will produce.
Frantoio olives are frequently are used in olive oils. This fruity olive ripens in the middle of the Tuscan olive season. Although frandoios are self-pollinating, they produce better when cross pollinated with other varieties. Like other olive trees, the frantoio is recommended for outdoor cultivation in areas with similar climates to the USDA Hardiness zones 7 through 10. Frantoio olives are a popular variety cultivated in California. They have grayish-green leaves and are a good table olive when cured. The fruit on this tree is oval shaped and weighs between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 grams each.
Leccino olives are very popular for cultivation worldwide. Leccino trees originated in Tuscany and produce quite well. They come into production early, and the olives ripen very early. Leccino are self-sterile and require cross pollination to produce. Leccino are fruity, sweeter olives, suitable for eating or oil production. These olives are sometimes described as being spicier than other varieties. These trees are hardy in zones 7 through 10 and often are grown in California. Leccino olive leaves are grayish in appearance. The Leccino produces a medium-size olive 2 to 2-1/2 grams in weight. They are rounded and ellipse-shaped with a round tip and flat base.
Maurino olives are self-sterile but often are used for pollination. The fruit from this tree is used primarily to blend and soften olive oils with stronger flavors. The fruit from the maurino is sometimes described as fruity and sweet, and more pungent than some other varieties. Maruino is sometimes grown in California groves and is suitable for hardiness zones 7 to 10. The Maurino olive is a slight, weeping olive tree with grayish green leaves. Olives from the Maurino tree are rounded with an elliptical shape. They weigh between 1-1/2 and 2 grams per fruit.
Pendolino olive trees are also self-sterile and primarily used to pollinate other olive trees. Pendolino olives produce well but don't have a lot of oil. The fruit on these trees ripens about midway through the growing season. Pendolino olives can be more bitter than others and often are used to change the character of olive oils. However, as a fruity olive that can be somewhat sweet, it also is a good eating olive. Growing in hardiness zones 7 to 10, this variety also is grown in California and other areas. The Pendolino olive tree has narrow leaves that look silver when lit from behind. Fruit from this tree ranges between 1 and 2 grams in weight. Fruits from the Pendolino tree are elliptical and asymmetrical in shape with a very round end.
Moraiolo olives are very productive and hardy. A self-sterile plant, this tree needs another variety for pollination. The olive oils produced with the fruit from this tree are more fruity but also can be bitter. The oil from these olives is used in blending olive oils with stronger flavors. These olives also are described as pungent and can add complexity to oils and dishes. The moraiolo is grown in some California orchards. It has eliptical-shaped, dark grayish-green leaves. Because of the small olive size, between 1-1/2 and 2 grams, and how tightly the fruit are packed together, this tree is not suitable for mechanical harvesting. Olives from the Moraiolo are rounded and semi-spherical in shape.