Olive oil can be used on just about anything you eat, says Mari Lenci, of Oliveto Ranch in Templeton.

“You can cook with it. You can dip it . . . Anything you make with butter, you can replace with olive oil,” she said.

Olive bottlesOlive oil is the oil obtained from the fruit of olive trees. Offering a fruity-bitter taste, olive oil enhances salads, sandwiches, pasta, rice and more. And, Lenci says, it’s healthier than butter.

She knows a thing or two about olive oil: Oliveto was actually the name of the olive orchard her great-grandfather farmed in Tuscany. The orchard was still operating when Lenci grew up there.

A Californian the past 30 years, Lenci once worked in sales and marketing for a major airline company, and she’s a culinary chef. She planted olive trees in 2000, and she began selling olive oil eight years ago.

The Oliveto  Ranch has 13 varieties of Tuscan olives, plus California Mission olives, Lenci said. When growing, Oliveto follows organic rules, she added, and the olives are all hand picked.  Oliveto olive oil is considered “extra virgin,” which means it is produced by a simple pressing of the olives (no chemicals used), it meets certain laboratory tests on things like acidity, and it doesn’t have negative tastes that professionals would consider a defect.

Consumers can tell if olive oil is fresh, Lenci said, if it’s a little bitter. But there’s also variety in flavors.

“What people don’t know is, not all olive oil is alike,” she said.


Find Oliveto olive oil at farmers’ markets in Morro Bay (Thursday, 2:30-5 p.m., Spencers Fresh Market lot) and San Luis Obispo (Thursday, 6:10-9 p.m., downtown).