The lowly olive is one of the world's greatest and most historically coveted foods. Throughout history, the olive tree has been the subject of mythology, a sign of longevity, and a source for excellent wood. From the olive flows olive oil, a precious commodity that was used historically for food, fuel, the anointing of kings, industrial lubricant, medicinal balm, soap manufacture, and polishing finely cut diamonds.
The fruit of the olive tree, the olive itself, has been eaten for centuries (ever since people learned how to tame the raw, inedible olive and make it edible by removing its inherent bitterness). There exists an enormous variety of olives, and endless ways of curing, flavoring, and marinating the olive. There is an ever increasing number of olive varieties being imported into the United States, which thankfully, gives the gourmet an ever increasing choice. To familiarize our ChefTalk.com audience with some of the olives available to the consumer, we took the following photos:
A Greek olive not unlike a French Nicoise olive. Its color ranges in color from purple to black. It is a small olive with little flesh.
This green olive originates in Spain in the Andalousia district. It is medium sized with a flavor reminiscent of almonds. It goes particularly well with tapas and sherry.
These are very small, even tiny olives that are a medium brown color. They originate in Spain (the Siurana district in Catalonia) and are characterized by a small amount of pleasantly bitter flesh on each olive. They are always brine cured. This olive is also prized for making excellent olive oil.
A variety of Greek olives that originate from the city of Kalamata in the Southern Peloponnese of Greece. Kalamata olives are pickled in wine vinegar. The pickling process develops a very pronounced flavor of salt and vinegar. They have a very meaty flesh which is strong in flavor.
A Spanish olive from the Aragon district. It is brine cured, deep brown, and tender fleshed.
From the Italian Cuneau district, this is a very large and meaty olive with a delicate flavor.
A variety of olive that is always sold green. It is medium size, elongated and has its origins in the south of France. Its flavor is mild and nutty.
Often cured in sea salt in order to draw out the moisture from the olive over a period of several weeks. After this period is ready to eat. Typically these olives are stored in a little olive oil.
These are very large purplish olives. They have a distinctive acidic bite.
Named for the small seaside town in Greece, this is a small, green olive with a nutty flavor.
French Nicoise olive. Its color ranges in color from purple to black. It is a small olive with little flesh.
A famous black olive from Greece. It has a moderately pungent and "deep" flavor.
Named for the town of Atalanti in eastern Greece on the Aegean Sea. These green olives are rather pale/gray in color, medium round, and have a "zingy" flavor.