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O l i v e s

Olives grow on trees cultivated in the Mediterranean and California. They have been harvested for as long as 5,000 years, starting in ancient Crete and Syria. Olives come in several varieties and are usually processed or cured, as they are too bitter to eat fresh off the tree. Olives are also sold in different forms, such as whole, pitted, sliced, chopped and wedged, and are available year-round.

Here's a guide to many of the different olives on the market:

  • Black ripe olives:

    Firm texture and smooth, mellow taste.

  • Green ripe olives:

    Same as black ripe olives, except for color. Green ripe olives are not exposed to air, so they retain their green color.

  • Spanish style green olives:

    Have a distinctive salty flavor that comes from being fermented for 4-6 months in an acid solution and packed in an 8% salt brine. Primarily imported from Spain.

  • Greek style olives:

    Strong tasting, black and wrinkled. Usually allowed to ripen longer on the tree before harvesting. Dry-salt cured and rubbed with olive oil. May be salt-brine cured and packed with vinegar.

  • Kalamata olives:

    Black-purple, almond-shaped olives from Greece. Slit and then brine-cured and packed with vinegar.

  • Gaeta:

    Mild-tasting Italian olives that are dry-salt cured, then rubbed with olive oil. May be brine-cured and packed with rosemary and other herbs. Black and wrinkled in appearance.

  • Nicoise:

    Small, tasty French olive with a large pit. Brown to brown-green-black in color.

  • Source: The California Olive Committee

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