Bjelica is a variety of olive native to Istria. It is cultivated all along the Croatian coast and is also widespread in the Friulian municipalities of Muggia and San Dorligo della Valle. The plant is very rustic and vigorous, producing long fruiting branches with medium-sized, narrow, long and slightly curled leaves. It has a good and constant productivity and is very resistant to the bora wind, low temperatures and calcareous soils. It is an indigenous late variety that produces a medium-sized, light-green fruit weighing on average about 4 g. During ripening, the olive changes colour and becomes more compact. During ripening, the olive changes colour from light yellow-green to reddish with purple hues. The oil obtained from this variety is particularly prized and much appreciated for its olfactory and taste characteristics: it has a fresh fruity aroma and a characteristic bitter and spicy taste. In the kitchen it goes well with many typical dishes of the Istrian gastronomic tradition. It is ideal with fish and meat, mushroom dishes and soups.
The tradition of growing Bjelica olives dates back to the time of the Romans, who dominated the territory of Istria. Even today, in some traditional farming families, the term ‘oljka’ (olive tree) is synonymous with bjelica. Its vigour and good productivity, together with its resistance to climatic phenomena and diseases, have made it possible not only to resume cultivation of this species but also to spread it throughout its original area. Today, many small producers in the region continue to cultivate Bjelica olive, protecting its artisanal processing.