Aptos and Monterey, May through September, and end of November through Christmas
Extra virgin olive oil, olive oil chocolate; castile soap; several varieties of cut lavender, and other ornamental cut and dried flowers such as hydrangea and flowering oregano; wreaths; lemons, figs, olives
Chris Banthien produces the award-winning Colline Extra Virgin Olive Oil from select Tuscan varietals growing in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Chris and Bruce were the first to grow olives for oil production in the Monterey Bay area since the 1940’s. In addition to her fruity olive oil, Chris also sells fragrant cut lavender at the farmers markets.
From 100 trees imported from Pescia, Italy in 1994, Valencia Creek Farms has expanded to a combined total of 2,000 trees. Their goal is to make only the finest oil from varieties that are historically grown in the central and northern areas of Italy. Oil is pressed from the Tuscan varietals Maurino, Leccino, Frantoio, Pendolino, and Ascolano as well as the Taggiasca varietal from the Ligurian coast.
The cool weather on the Central Coast yields an extraordinarily fine fruit flavor with a wonderful balance of bitterness and pungency, and a spicy finish. The olives are harvested when their color turns from green to either straw color, red and deep purple, depending on the flavor desired from each of the varietals that comprise the blends. Chris suggests that olive oil is best stored in a cool, dark place.
As you stroll down the aisles of the farmers market, you can’t miss the beautiful array of lavender at Chris’ booth. She grows half a dozen varieties of lavender in four acres of terraces carved out of the steep hillside around her Aptos home. The climate there is perfect for plants that love warm sun, ocean fog and sandy soil such as lavender, flowering oregano and hydrangea. The English varieties of lavender, Provence, Grosso and Hidcote in dark purple and white are her most popular lavenders.
Chris says, “There are many things I love about farming. The outdoor, active lifestyle and creating products people enjoy are equally wonderful. When I bought this piece of property, it was an abandoned apple orchard. Now it has olive groves and terraced fields of flowers, as well as my home and barn/workspace. Conducting this transformation has been very satisfying.”
Valencia Creek Farm is home to Colline di Santa Cruz. Over the years, Colline di Santa Cruz has won several awards for excellence at the Olive Oils of the World competition at the Los Angeles County Fair, including Best of Show the first year Chris competed, as well as several Best of Class.