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A Guide to Different Types of Olives

Not many people might know this, but olives are actually fruits. They are a type of stone fruit with one inside shell surrounded by a fleshy part. They come in a variety of colors and tastes, but the only difference between the colors is the ripeness.

5-Minute Crafts will show you the most popular types of both green and black olives.

The green olives are unripe, while the black ones are fully ripe. Raw green olives are very bitter and need curing, the black ones have a milder taste. The black ones richer in oil than green ones.

I. Green olives

1. Castelvetrano

Castelvetrano is one of the most popular types of olive, grown only in Sicily’s Valle del Belice region and taking on a unique taste due to being exposed to certain climate conditions: hot days and mild nights.

2. Cerignola

gigantic, very buttery type of olive. Due to their size, Cerignola olives are easily stuffable.

  • Taste description: mild taste with a buttery and crispy texture
  • Varieties: can be dyed a bright red color with an artificial colorant
  • Used for: serving with bread, Parmesan cheese, and salami, often stuffed with cheese, capers, anchovies, and garlic

3. Lucques

This type of good table olive is remarkable for its unusual kidney-shaped fruits.

  • Taste description: sweet and mild with nutty notes
  • Ripening features: may stay green, even in fully ripe condition

4. Manzanilla

One of the most well-known types of green olives. The fruits come in medium to large sizes and have an oval shape. Manzanilla olives are often stuffed or cracked and preserved in olive oil.

  • Taste description: slightly smoky flavor and almondy taste
  • Stuffing: most common type of green olives stuffed with garlic or pimento — the type of sweet red pepper also used in pimento cheese
  • Used for: both making oil and as a snack

5. Picholine

A popular type of olive grown throughout the world.

  • Taste description: nutty and tart flavor with a crispy texture
  • Used for: serving as an independent snack or together with cheese and in antipasto dishes
  • Harvesting features: Picholine olives are gathered at the beginning of the season and are brine-cured.

II. Black olives

1. Gaeta

Gaeta is a type of small brown olive with a purple shade and wrinkled skin.

  • Taste description: slightly sour and salty
  • Used for: topping salads or mixing into dishes with seafood. Can also be served alone as a snack.
  • Curing features: can either be brine-cured to make them juicy and plump or dry-cured to make them more chewy and wrinkled.

2. Kalamata

Kalamata is a type of large, dark purple olive.

  • Taste description: salty-sweet with a fruity and smoky flavor
  • Used for: serving as tapenade or with feta, or roasted vegetables
  • Harvesting features: must be hand-harvested to prevent bruising

3. Liguria

These small olives with firm and meaty flesh are usually cured in a mixture of herbs and spices.

  • Taste description: sweet taste without the bitter hints
  • Harvesting features: harvested during their color change from green to black

4. Niçoise

Niçoise olives ripen on the tree until they become dark brownish-purple, then they are cured for 6 months in a brine made with sea salt.

  • Taste description: briny and salty taste and natural pungent, bitter, sour flavors with a hint of nuts and licorice
  • Used for: serving as an independent snack or for pizza-topping, in salads, sauces, fish, or poultry dishes


5. Nyon

These small olives with wrinkled skin are dry-cured and then preserved in brine.

  • Taste description: bitter but mild taste with aromatic flavor
  • Used for: serving as a snack with olive oil, rosemary, or thyme to enhance the taste.

6. Thasos

Thasos olives are a wrinkly-skinned fruit that’s dried in sun and cured in salt.

  • Taste description: mild and salty flavor with woody notes
  • Used for: serving with cheese and chopped oregano
  • Growing features: olive trees grow together with a local type of fungus, which affects the taste of their fruit. The bitter taste disappears, so they can be eaten right after harvesting.
Preview photo credit VagelisDimas / Pixabay
5-Minute Crafts/Food/A Guide to Different Types of Olives
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