Best Olives

If you’re a surfer, you will know that no matter how fun and exciting the sport can be, it is also extremely dangerous.

With the risk of being wiped off your board and hitting submerged obstacles under the water, it is vital to protect yourself with the appropriate safety gear.

Head-related injuries are unfortunately quite common in both amateur and professional surfing.

Such injuries can cause unconsciousness and drowning, which is why it is so important to wear a helmet.


[amazon fields=”B00HUY18VY” value=”thumb”]


[amazon fields=”B074YCGSHP” value=”thumb”]


[amazon fields=”B00HUY18VY” value=”thumb” image_size=”large”]

The Kalamata olive is grown in Greece and is considered the king of all table olives. This is an incredibly popular olive and recognisable by most people for its distinctive almond shape.

It has a deep purple colour and a rich, smoky but fruity flavour. 

A versatile olive, it is not just great for tapas but also as a tapenade. It is often preserved in red wine vinegar, red wine or olive oil for a distinctive flavour.

They have a smooth, meaty texture and are high in oleic acid which is a heart healthy type of fat. Kalamata olives are also high in fibre, iron, calcium, copper and vitamins A and E. 

When adding kalamata olives to your diet there are lots of ways that you can enjoy them. You can add them to chopped feta cheese, tomato, and cucumber for a Mediterranean salad.

They can also be sliced and used as a pizza topping. 


[amazon fields=”B074YCGSHP” value=”thumb” image_size=”large”]

Castelvetrano olives are Italy’s most popular snacking olive and are grown in Sicily. They are bright green and are often called sweet due to their mild, buttery flavour.  The texture is meaty and crisp. 

They are also known as Nocellara del Belice as they are grown in the Valle del Belice region of southwestern Sicily which has a wonderful Mediterranean climate perfect for olive growing.

Castelvetrano olives have a protected designation of origin seal to ensure that only olives that come from this region are sold as Castelvetrano olives. 

The olives are harvested in September or October to preserve their green colour and the trees only bear fruit in their fifth year of growth. 

Unusually these are not fermented but rather washed in water and a lye solution several times over a two-week period.

This removes the bitter compounds that occur naturally in the olive and make it palatable. Afterwards the olives are washed and refrigerated.


This olive is very large and is grown in the Puglia region in the south of Italy. They are popular as table olives and because of their size they are ideal to stuff with pimentos, garlic, or cheese.

They can even be stuffed with chicken, rolled in flour and deep fried.

Cerignola olives can be eaten green or black, and like many other olives they have a protected designation of origin seal to ensure other olives are not passed off as them.

Initially cured in a lye solution they are then soaked in brine for up to four weeks.

Some Cerignola olives are cured and turned a red colour, but this does nothing for the flavour and is purely for appearance and festive flair. 

They have a crisp, buttery taste and go well with cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or mozzarella.

For cooking these olives make a wonderful puttanesca pasta sauce and are great in antipasti with cheese, salami and bresaola. 


[amazon fields=”B074T3L6X4″ value=”thumb” image_size=”large”]

The Nyon comes from France and packs a lot of punch for a small olive. They have wrinkly skin and a very large stone for their size.

The olives get their distinctive wrinkled skins because they are harvested in the winter, and the skin shrivels against the cold. 

It is one of the first olives in France to receive the appelation d'origine protegee. Similar to the protected designation of origin for olives from Italy this French certification ensures the quality and origins of a product. 

These olives grow on the Tanche tree which is the most productive and famous French cultivar. They are typically cured in their own oil mostly in Provencal oil with herbs such as rosemary or thyme and are also dry cured. 

Nyon olives still have a slightly bitter and salty taste and a soft, chewy texture. 


This is a very well known olive and is a key ingredient in dishes such as Niçoise salad and tapenade. Its dark brown colouring is due to the fact that it is left on the tree until it is quite mature. 

They grow in the Alpes-Maritimes region of southeast France close to the city of Nice from where the olive gets its name. This Mediterranean region has the perfect climate for growing olives.

However, the Niçoise is not what it may seem. It’s not actually an olive in its own right, but a cured Cailletier olive, sometimes called the Taggiasca olive.

The olives are harvested when they are a dark brown colour and then cured for several months. 

Niçoise olives are cured in brine and often then packed in oil with herbs such as rosemary and thyme.

They have a slightly sweet and smoky flavour, and they are a very popular table olive. As they grow near the coast they are often served with seafood such as tuna. 


[amazon fields=”B079SG9DCQ” value=”thumb” image_size=”large”]

The Gaeta olive is a popular black olive from the city of the same name on the west coast of Italy. They are quite a small olive and come in a range of purple hues but they are particularly flavoursome. 

The olives are soft with a meaty texture and a slight sourness, they go well with cheese, in particular a hard cheese or a tangy feta.

They can be paired with white meat and game as successfully as with seafood and vegetables. 

Gaeta olives are the Italian equivalent of the Kalamata, and are left on the trees for longer than other varieties before being harvested in the spring.

It is highly sought after for its citrusy flavour by Italian chefs in a lot of their dishes as well as in international cuisine. 


Picholine olives were originally grown in the Gard region in the southeast of France but are now also grown in Provence, Italy, South America, Israel and Morocco. 

They are small green and torpedo shaped olives with a crisp texture making them a good choice for tapas or a Martini.

Harvested in October or November the olives are picked when they are still green and young. 

When they are picked for olive oil they are harvested later after the fruit has turned black. The exact timing of the harvest for the purpose of making olive oil will determine the flavour of the oil. 

Fruit that is picked earlier will produce a light, fruity oil while olives that are harvested later will bring out a sweeter flavour. 

The Picholine is one of the most common olives in France and is often served with Brie and crusty bread, accompanied by a Sauvignon Blanc. 

Best Olives Buying Guide

Before you go and buy some olives there are some things you should know before choosing including how olives are cured.

You should also consider the colour and taste of the olives, something that is often closely connected. 

The nutritional value of olives is also worthy of note and what they can be served with or used for when you are cooking or entertaining. 

Best Olives


Olives need to be cured in order to be palatable. This is because they have high quantities of oleuropein, a phenolic compound, in their skin which is very bitter. The curing process also allows the olives to be preserved for a long time. 

There are different methods for curing olives, and it can depend on the variety of olive, where it is grown and how they are going to be used after curing. 

Water curing involves soaking olives in water for several months. The olives are repeatedly washed and rinsed in successive baths of fresh water to remove the oleuropein. 

When it has been eliminated the olives are put in a final brine of salt and vinegar to aid preservation and add flavour. Kalamata olives are cured in this way. 

Brine curing takes between 3-6 months and uses salt water to cure the olives. It breaks down the bitterness causing compounds and turns the sugar in the olive into lactic acid making the olive more flavoursome. 

Small, black and ripe olives are put into barrels of salt to cure and dehydrate. 

Lye curing quickly breaks down the waxy coating of the skin of the olive and removes the bitterness. They are then washed several times in water to remove the lye and finally soaked in a vinegar brine 


The taste of olives will vary according to the variety, when they are harvested, and how they have been cured and stored. 

Green olives have been harvested before they fully ripen and so have a milder flavour than black or even purple olives. Their texture tends to be a bit crisper than black olives due to their shorter time on the tree. 

Some like the Castelvetrano olive have a salty, buttery taste. They are only stored in brine and depending on their origin have varying degrees of bitterness. 

Black olives are picked when they are fully ripened and matured. For this reason they have a more robust flavour than green olives. The flesh of black olives is meatier and typically goes well with cheese. 

Dark brown or purple olives such as the Niçoise or Kalamata are popular for their rich and unique taste. They are not as bitter as black olives and have a more fruity flavour. 


Olives are generally classified as being either green or black. Olives that are shades of dark brown or purple are typically put in the black category rather than in a distinct class of their own. 

Green olives such as the Picholine or Castelvetrano have been harvested before fully maturing on the tree, normally in September or October. This gives them their distinctive and appealing vivid colour. 

Black olives are normally left to ripen and so get their dark colours from being exposed to the sun for a longer period of time on the tree.

However, some olives such as canned black olives are artificially coloured through a rapid fermentation process. 

Occasionally, you may see red olives but these too have been artificially coloured with  erythrosine usually as a Christmas table decoration. 

Nutrition & Health Benefits

Olives are high in antioxidants such as vitamin E which come from the phenolic compounds in the olive’s skin.

Antioxidants have been found to be beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer and atherosclerosis. Olives also contain iron, copper, calcium and sodium. 

Oleocanthal is one of the polyphenols in olives and is a natural anti-inflammatory similar to the pharmaceutical ibuprofen and can help with rheumatoid arthritis. 

There is a high fat content in olives but the majority of it is a healthy mono-unsaturated type called oleic acid.

It has been associated with the reduced risk of heart disease potentially by regulating blood pressure and regulating the balance of cholesterol. 

Some research has suggested that the plant compounds in olives reduce the occurrence of bone loss. People who follow a Mediterranean diet have a lower incidence of fracture. 

Fermented foods such as olives are highly beneficial for gut health by adding good bacteria and enzymes to your intestinal flora. This increases the health of your digestive system and can boost your immune system. 


There are so many ways to eat olives. You can add them to your salad, to a pasta sauce, have them as a tapenade or just eat them as they are with some delicious accompaniments such as cheese, bread and meats. 

Larger olives such as Cerignola can be stuffed with things like cheese, pimentos or garlic. You can even stuff them with chicken, beef or pork, toss them in flour and deep fry them.

For a more traditional dish add them to sardines and caramelised onions on grilled  flatbread. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Olives Straight From The Tree?

You can safely eat olives straight from the tree, but they will be incredibly bitter. This is because olives contain phenolic compounds such as oleuropein which is the most bitter of these compounds.

These are antioxidants and are associated with certain health benefits. 

The degree of bitterness in each olive will depend on the cultivar, ripeness and curing method.

Olives are cured in various ways to remove this bitterness and to make them more palatable. These methods reduce or remove the bitter compounds from the olives. 

What Are The Curing Methods For Olives?

There are several methods for curing or fermenting olives. This involves processes that leach out the phenolic compounds and convert the olives natural sugar into lactic acid.

The methods used are lye, natural brine, water, salt or air curing.

Lye or sodium hydroxide is a strong alkali and is used to wash olives in for a quick de-bittering process.

The olives are then rinsed in several baths of fresh water before being stored in brine to convert the natural sugars to lactic acid. The process takes 1-3 months.

Some olives are put straight into brine to ferment and this process can take up to 12 months depending on the variety of olive. 

Kalamata olives are cured by soaking in water over several months and then stored in brine. 

In the Mediterranean olives are often salt cured. They are washed and then placed in barrels of salt, to promote dehydration the olives are rolled in barrels once a week. 

Air curing is very rare and only applied to a couple of olives such as the Nyon and Thassos variety. The fruit is exposed to hot temperatures and the sun during this curing process. 

Why Are Olives Different Colours?

The most common colours for olives are green, purple and black. These are the three stages of ripening for the olives with green being the least and black the most ripe.

It will also depend on which variety the olive is. Some olives are artificially dyed. 

What Is The Difference Between Black Canned Olives And Table Olives?

Black canned olives are not fermented but ‘cut’ daily for a week with lye until it has reached the stone.

They are then processed with carbon dioxide to neutralise the alkalinity of the lye. Finally, they are exposed to ferrous gluconate where they get their uniform black colour. 

These olives don’t have a lot of taste because of this process. But black table olives have been fermented and retain practically all of their natural flavour. 

Jeff Pratt
Latest posts by Jeff Pratt (see all)