What are the differences between green and black olives

Olives are the fruit of a tree native to the Mediterranean and is a staple in Greek cuisine. Greece was actually the first country to cultivate olives and is now one of the world’s largest supplier of olives and olive oil. A friend of mine grew up tending to, and picking olives in Cyprus and never fails to remind me of the hard work, and love that is involved in making sure we always have olives on our dinner table. Watering the olive trees in keeping with the seasons and weather is a talent in itself, never mind the hand-picking, brining and packaging. I am always thankful for the effort which has going into every jar or can of olives in our supermarkets.

But what are the differences between green and black olives? Green olives are picked before they ripen and brined in a lye solution to make them edible. Their pre-ripened state means for a dense, bitter fruit which is usually stuffed with peppers, garlic or cheeses to enhance its flavor. Due to their marinating process they are also left with a lot of oil in them, making them extremely moist. These properties make green olives perfect as a stand-alone snack to enjoy with dips and breads. They are also used by professional chefs to add garnish to dishes, or in food and beverages -such as the James Bond favorite- as a seasoning to add bitterness. The two most prevalent types of green olive in Greece, as named by their regions of origin are Halkidiki and Ionian. Halkidiki olives are at their best when sliced into a salad with feta and roasted tomatoes which are deliciously balanced by the pleasent sourness of Halkidiki olives. Ionians are sweeter than most olives, yet I still find that their bitter, salty taste works in the same appetizer recipes as any other green olive.

Black olives are the same fruit as green olives, they are just picked after ripening. They still need to be brined to prepare them for consumption so although they are softer due to their lengthier growing time, I find them to be drier than green olives. Being less robust than their green cousins, black olives lose some flavor during processing, but this leads them to become a key ingredient in many dishes. They are perfect for baking into breads, rubbing/crumbing meats, stirring into pastas and tossing in salads. Kalamata are probably the most well-known type of black olives and they are my favorites. Olives compliment any tomato-based dish and their salty, sourness is a joy to behold in leafy salads.

photo by nikoretro

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