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A Look Into the Different Varieties of Olives - A Gripping Read

A Look into the Different Varieties of Olives
Olives-the drupe that has been revered and used since ancient times is considered as a pure and sacred form of food.
Mary Anthony
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Fun Facts About Olives:
- Carvings of olives appear on the Pharaoh's tombs in Egypt.
- The oldest olive tree is on the island of Crete, it's 5,000 yrs old and is still producing fruits.
- Olives are fruits with skin, meat inside, and a stone.
- The glucoside, Oleuropein makes it taste bitter even when its ripe.
Olives have a lot of historical value and have been mentioned in the Old Testament, in many ancient books and even in Qur'an. It was so important in the Biblical times that Moses exempted the olive growers from military service. The earliest Olympic flame is known to have been a burning olive branch.
Olive trees are believed to have originated in ancient Greece. There's a famous myth surrounding it which says that Goddess Athena donated an olive tree to the Athenians in order to win Poseidon and make her the protectress of the town; hence it came to be known as Athens.
Olive cultivation began in Crete island in 3500 B.C. The Greeks used it for eating, oil, and cosmetics. It later spread to the other regions of the Mediterranean countries like France, Spain, and Portugal through the Roman Empire.

The first olive seedling was planted in Lima, Peru in 1560 by Antonio de Rivera. By the 18th century it came to California, USA through the Spanish missionaries. Today it is a thriving and ever-growing cultivation with many varieties.
Olives are divided into two varieties black and green olives, the only difference between them is the ripeness. Olives cannot be consumed right from the trees due to its bitter taste and hence need to be treated with salt, water, oil, or lye to make them edible. In some areas they are dried for a cure, these cures add a unique flavor, texture and allows it to be stored for a longer duration.
Green & Black Varieties of Olives
The only difference between green and black olives is that black olives are allowed to fully ripen on the trees before harvest, they have a totally different flavor than the unripened green olives.
Following are the varieties:
Halkidiki Olives
Halkidiki olive
These are traditional Greek olives and are harvested while they are still young. They have a oval shape and tarty peppery flavor, their texture is meaty and juicy. They are normally cured in brine.
Manzanilla Olives
Manzanilla olive
These are famous Spanish olives that are spicy and salty. They are cured in lye and brine. Their varieties include stuffed, pitted, and unpitted olives.
Sicilian Olives
Sicilian Olive
Sicilian Olive: These are famous Italian olives, they are medium in size and have a salty taste. They are oval in shape and contain less calories. They are cured in brine with salt and lactic acid.
Picholine Olives
Picholine Olive
These are famous French olives, they are widely used for cocktails and hence known as 'cocktail olives'. They are medium-sized and have a fruity and sweet taste.
Spanish Olives
Spanish Olive
These traditional Spanish olives are very popular around the world. They have a very lengthy fermentation process of 4 to 6 months in brine and acid solution which gives it a very distinct salty flavor.
Mission Olives
Mission Olive
These are a popular variety found in California, mostly produced for table consumption. They are small in size and have the lowest pit-to-flesh ratio. It's the only American olive variety that is listed in International Olive Council in World Catalog of Olive varieties.
Kalamata Olives
Kalamata Olive
These are traditional Greek olives and get their name from the Greek city of Kalamata. These are cultivated from the Kalamon olive tree and are hand-picked ripe to get a rich color and flavor. They have a meaty taste and look almond-shaped with dark purple color. They are preserved in vinegar, olive oil, and wine. These are basically table olives.
Mavroelia Olives
Mavroelia Olive
These are a Greek variety of black olives, they are grown in the Messinia district. They are harvested before over-ripening and must be taken quickly to the processing plant to get cured in the brine solution. Ideally these olives grow well in humid weather.
Ponentine Olives
Ponentine Olive:
These are an Italian variety of black olives, they are small in size and are left to ripe until they are purplish-black, then packed in vinegar and cured with oil brine. They usually have a nutty crisp taste along with firm meat. They are sometimes marinated or fermented in lime juice to add to salads or canned for a sourer taste.
Nicoise Olives
Nicoise olive
These olives have a significant other name and are called Cailletier, these are popular French olives that are consumed when fully ripened. These are firm and juicy in flesh, rich-flavored but small in size. They are used for extracting oil as well as a table olive.
Liguria Olives
liguria olive
These are an Italian variety of black olives, they are picked while turning from green to black and are small-sized. The curing is done with oil brine, sometimes they are preserved with bay leaves and rosemary for added flavor. They usually have a strong flavor.
Gaeta Olives
Gaeta Olive
These are a popular Italian appetizer. The black olives are juicy, mild, and crisp. They are deep purple in color and come in small size. Their taste is natural and unique; dry salt and oil is used in the curing process. They are mainly used in fish dishes, salads, or as puree.
Gemlik Olives
Gemlik Olive
These are a popular variety found in Turkey, they are traditionally cured. They are medium in size and have a very high oil content hence they are used for oil as well as a table variety.
Lugano Olives
lugano olive
These are a popular variety found in Italy, but are actually Swiss variety. They are medium-sized and brownish-black in color, they are cured in brine and herbs. They have a very salty flavor.
Alfonsos Olives
Alfonsos Olive
These are a popular variety found in Chile, their color can vary from clay red to purple. These oval-shaped olives are meaty and fruity flavored. They are mostly cured in red wine or red wine vinegar.
In spite of the bitterness and the process of curing these drupes seem to be very popular even today, so grab a juicy bite or make some delicious oil to add zest to your salads, meat or sea-food dishes, and of course pizzas!