Olives, a treasure of Mediterranean cuisine that should not be missing from your plate. What do you not know about them?

You usually have to walk around the olives gradually in order to like them.

And why is it even good to consume them?

How are they processed?

And how do green and black olives actually differ from each other?

You will learn all this and much more in our article!

What are olives?

Olives are small fruits that grow on olive trees. They belong to a group of fruits called drupes and are related to mangoes, cherries, peaches, almonds and pistachios. The healthy fats in olives are extracted to produce olive oil, one of the key components of the incredibly healthy Mediterranean diet. They are often used in salads, sandwiches and tapenades. Some unripe olives are green and turn black as they ripen. Others remain green even when fully ripe.

A bowl full of black and green olives.

Health benefits of consuming olives

Olives have many health benefits such as:

They improve bone health

Osteoporosis is characterized by a decrease in bone mass and bone quality. It can also increase the risk of fractures. Osteoporosis rates are lower in Mediterranean countries than in the rest of Europe, leading to speculation that olives could protect against the disease.

They have antioxidant properties

Antioxidants have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Olives are rich in antioxidants with various health benefits from fighting inflammation to limiting the growth of microorganisms. One study showed that eating the pulpy remains of olives significantly increases blood levels of glutathione, one of the most powerful antioxidants in our bodies.

They improve heart health

High blood cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for heart disease. Oleic acid, the main fatty acid found in olives, has been linked to improved heart health. It can regulate cholesterol and bad cholesterol from oxidation. Additionally, some studies report that olives and olive oil can lower blood pressure.

Protects against cancer

Olives and olive oil are commonly consumed in the Mediterranean region, where the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases is lower than in other Western countries. So it is possible that olives can help reduce the risk of cancer. This may be due in part to the high antioxidant and oleic acid content of olives.

Olives can be consumed by pregnant and lactating women, and some experts even claim that eating olives with dinner will help you sleep better.

Side effects of consuming olives

  • Olives are generally well tolerated, but since they are sold pickled, they contain more salt.
  • They may also contain heavy metals and minerals such as boron, sulphur, tin and lithium. Consuming large amounts of heavy metals can harm your health and increase your risk of cancer. However, the amount of these metals in olives is generally well below the legal limit. Therefore, this fruit is considered safe.
  • Olives contain acrylamide, which has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, although some scientists dispute this link. However, it is generally recommended to limit the intake of acrylamide as much as possible.

Nutritional values of olives

In the following table, look at the comparison of the nutritional values of green and black olives in 100 grams.

Nutritional values Green olives
Black olives
Energy 145 calories 116 calories
Fats 15 g 11 g
Carbohydrates 3.8 g 6 g
Sugars 0.5 g 0 g
Fiber 3.3 g 1.6 g
Proteins 1 g 0.8 g

The recommended daily dose for an adult is 7 olives a day.

Vitamins and minerals in olives

Also look at the amount of minerals and vitamins that 100 grams of greens vs. contains black olives.

Vitamins and minerals Green olives (100 g) Black olives (100 g)
Vitamin A 20.00 mcg 17.00 mcg
Vitamin B1 0.021 mg 0.003 mg
Vitamin B2 0.007 mg 0.000 mg
Vitamin B3 0.237 mg 0.037 mg
Vitamin B6 0.031 mg 0.009 mg
Folates 3.00 mcg 0.00 mcg
Vitamin C 0.0 mg 0.9 mg
Vitamin E 3.81 mg 1.65 mg
Vitamin K 1.4 mcg 1.4 mcg
Calcium 52.00 mg 88.00 mg
Copper 0.12 mg 0.25 mg
Iron 0.49 mg 6.28 mg
Magnesium 11.00 mg 4.00 mg
Phosphorus 4.00 mg 3.00 mg
Potassium 42.00 mg 8.00 mg
Selenium 0.90 mcg 0.90 mcg
Sodium 1556.00 mg 735.00 mg
Zinc 0.04 mg 0.22 mg

Where can we buy olives and how to store them?

You can find olives in most grocery stores, online, and in various specialty stores or markets.

Without a stone or with a stone?

If you buy pitted olives, you will save the time you would have spent pitting them, but the olives will lose their flavor. What’s more, pitted olives soften more quickly and acquire the flavor of the pickle in which they are sold.

In brine or in oil?

If you buy olives in brine, store them unopened in the pantry or in some other cool and dry place. At best, they can last up to two years.

Olives in oil can also be stored unopened in the pantry, but they will last a shorter time than olives in brine. There is usually an expiry date on the packaging, which you should be aware of. It will generally last you a few months.

After opening the jar with olives, it is recommended to move it to the refrigerator. After that, you should eat them within 3 weeks, whether they are olives in brine or in oil.

How to store fresh olives?

If you bought fresh olives at a deli or farmers market, you should find some type of storage container to put them in. Ideally, you should use some type of plastic food storage container to hold all of your olives. You can also use an old olive container if you can find one. Unless the olives are commercially packaged and suspended in liquid, they should be refrigerated and consumed within 3 days of bringing them home.

How to prepare your own pickle?

Sometimes you can make the mistake of pouring out the varnish that was in the jar with the olives. When something like this happens, you can make your own homemade saline solution that works great as a substitute. It won’t be as strong as the original solution, but it can still work well.

Simply put ½ teaspoon of salt in a cup of water. For every cup of water you need to use, you should add ½ teaspoon of salt.

You can store olives in this pickle for about 2 weeks.

How to freeze olives?

Olives can be frozen for about 6 months. Just place them without the pickle in an airtight container and put it in the freezer.

How do I know if the olives are spoiled?

One moldy olive is a sign that the whole jar has to go. The mold does not have to be visible, you also need to be careful about any change in appearance or smell. If the olives start to look shriveled or faded, discard them. And no matter how normal the olives look, throw them out if the jar lid is dented, dented, or damaged in any way.

Types of olives

There are hundreds of varieties of olives. The most common ones include:

  • Arbequina – small Spanish olives with a nutty flavor and slightly brownish color, often used to make olive oil
  • Manzallina – light green to green-brown olives from Spain, they have a crunchy flesh with an oily texture and a slightly smoky rich flavor
  • Gordal – large, green and fleshy olives that are commonly sold pitted and stuffed
  • Kalamata – Greek olives that are almond-shaped and purple-black
  • Granny Smith – apple-green olives that taste buttery and mild
  • Cerignola – large Italian olives, which can be green or black, have firm flesh
  • Gaeta – small, earthy black olives that are as versatile as Kalamata
  • Nicoise – small black French olives, mainly used in Niçoise salad and tapenades, have a sharp, slightly sour taste
  • Picholine – French green olives preserved in brine with a characteristic crunchy taste, suitable for cocktails or great marinated
  • Beldi – Moroccan small, black olives that are wrinkled like prunes and have a strong flavor with a hint of bitterness
  • Lucques – oval-shaped French table olives with soft flesh that are soft and buttery

In terms of color, black olives are ripe and green are not. Both black and green olives come from the same trees, and like other fruit-bearing plants, a tree can have both ripe and unripe olives at the same time. All olives ripen from green to black, through intermediate stages of reddish, brown and purple.

Different types of olives stacked in pots next to each other.

How to use olives in the kitchen?

You can use olives in many different ways – on their own as a snack or appetizer or as an important part of dips, sauces, salads, pasta dishes, various stewed and baked dishes . They add a wonderful salty and aromatic flavor to dishes. They also go well with fish and poultry , but they can also lift the roasted cauliflower .

One of the easiest and tastiest ways to enjoy olives is to marinate them in warm olive oil with herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, citrus zest and peppercorns.

Hands holding a bowl full of black and green marinated olives with herbs and a glass of red drink placed next to it.

Other tips on how to include olives in your diet

If you use olives in the recipe, reduce the amount of salt used, as the olives will add their own salty taste.

Olive oil

  • Prepare a delicious pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes, chilli, black olives, capers and sliced anchovy fillets.
  • Make a quick tapenade by chopping pitted olives and some garlic. Process until smooth, season, then add olive oil and lemon juice to taste.
  • Crush black olives and cherry tomatoes for summer bruschetta , mix and spread the mixture on toasted ciabatta, on which you have already spread pressed garlic. Place the arugula leaves, drizzle with oil and season.
  • You can use olives in recipes for French salad nicoise .
  • Prepare a marinade of chopped olives, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and spices, which you rub on the chicken thighs and let sit for 15 minutes. Place in a baking dish with lemon quarters and rosemary leaves. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Turn and roast for another 15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through. Serve drizzled with lemon juice.
  • Use olives in one of our Greek salad recipes .
  • Fill the hollowed out tomatoes with cooled cooked rice seasoned with pressed garlic, chopped green olives and tomatoes, lemon juice and chopped herbs such as basil or parsley.
  • Pit and chop the olives, add to the finished mayonnaise , season and drizzle with lemon juice. Mix well before using as a dip for raw vegetables or spread mayonnaise on sandwiches and add lettuce and ham or salami.
  • Try a rich sauce of eggplant, red onion, garlic, zucchini, red pepper, and a can of diced tomatoes. Throw in a handful of olives and mix.
  • Prepare a homemade pizza and garnish it with olives.

Olive oil

The most common product made from olives is olive oil. It is extracted from the fleshy part of a ripe olive. Ripe olives contain 20-30% oil depending on the climate and care during cultivation. It is a central component of the so-called Mediterranean diet, which is considered particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health. You can use it in salads, pasta, to prepare marinades or sauces for meat, fish and vegetables.

Olive oil in a glass bottle and green olives placed next to it.

Olive cultivation

Olives are fruits that grow on olive trees . However, they are not edible straight from the tree due to their bitter component, oleurpein. They must therefore be treated before consumption.

The olive tree is a tree that is from 3 to 12 meters tall , but even more, and has many branches. Its leaves are leathery and lanceolate, dark green on top and silvery on the underside. Blooms in late spring . Flowers contain both male and female parts. The female parts can develop into olive fruits and the male parts contain only the pollen producing parts. . Olives tend to have maximum oil content (about 20–30 percent by weight) and greatest weight six to eight months after flowering. At this stage they are black and will stay on the tree for several weeks. The olive season lasts from September to December and sometimes until January.

Most commercial olives are machine-harvested , a cost-effective method that works on the assumption that the olives ripen at the same rate on the tree (which in reality they do not). The best quality olives are collected and sorted by hand . However, you will pay more for them.

Olives thrive only in hot and dry climates with mild winters . The trees take 12 to 15 years to produce a full crop and can live up to 600 years. The world’s major olive growing countries include Spain, Greece, Italy, France and Morocco .

In total, there are an estimated 865 million olive trees on Earth. Although each tree can produce crops for literally hundreds of years, more are being planted as the use of olive oil has spread to northern countries, where its health benefits and evident culinary excellence surpass other cooking oils and fats. Therefore, also in the Mediterranean region , 90% of olives are used to produce olive oil .

Lots of olive trees growing side by side.

How are olives processed?

Because olives are very bitter, they are usually not eaten fresh. Instead, they are treated and fermented. This process removes bitter compounds such as oleuropein, which are most abundant in unripe olives. Lactic acid is also important during fermentation. It acts as a natural preservative that protects olives from harmful bacteria. However, there are some varieties that do not need processing and can be eaten when fully ripe. The lowest amount of bitter compounds is found in ripe black olives.

Processing olives can take from a few days to a few months depending on the method used. Processing methods often rely on local traditions that influence the taste, color and texture of the fruit.

Caustic curing

Lye curing is the most common method of processing olives. Olives are picked either green or ripe and then soaked in a solution of lye and then salt water. This draws out the bitterness and starts fermentation, which lasts for 6 months. Some olives are lightly pickled in lye and then washed in water. This process, which is free of fermentation, produces the sweetest and most buttery olives.

Dry drying with salt

Drying olives with only salt is the Moroccan style. The salt draws out the bitterness and moisture, leaving you with wrinkled fruit that’s packed with flavor. This processing procedure works by packing ripe black olives in coarse salt, followed by rinsing and then soaking in oil for final curing.

Lye canning

Young green olives are preserved in lye and then exposed to oxygen and ferrous gluconate, an iron compound that produces black, smooth, fine-tasting olives. Ripe green olives are processed in the same way but do not oxidize; that’s why they stay green.

History of olives

Edible olives were cultivated on the island of Crete around 3500 BC . The olive tree was so important to the Greeks that they incorporated it into their myth of Athena. When she struck the Acropolis with her spear, the first olive tree sprouted. This magic tripped up the witnesses who complained that the sea god Poseidon would have given them a better gift. But after Athena taught them to grow the tree and process its products into food, light, and wood, they realized its many virtues and named their city Athena in her honor. Even today , Greece remains the main producer , producing 11 percent of the world’s olive production, and locals consume an average of 23 liters of olive oil per person per year.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)