Types of Black Olives

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Types of Black Olives
Different methods of curing black olives yield distinctive types and flavours. (Emilio Simion/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Black olives, unlike green olives, remain on the tree and are not harvested until they are fully ripened. The many types of black olives stem from the region where they are grown and the methods used to preserve them. Greek, Moroccan, Spanish and French black olives each have their own distinctive flavours and uses.

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Greek Black Olives

Kalamata olives are Greek black olives often served as appetizers. They are laterally slit to permit the wine vinegar in which they are soaked to penetrate the entire olive.

Kalamata olives are picked when they are black but not overripe or touched by frost. They are first sealed in brine to stimulate fermentation which reduces the olive's natural bitterness. These olives are slightly bitter and salty with a rich, fruity flavour.

The Greek Megaritiki olive is another black olive type that is picked when overripe, washed and placed in baskets with dry salt. Salty olives have very little bitterness and look like raisins. These olives are used mainly as appetizers in Greece and served with the Greek drink, ouzo.

Moroccan Black Olives

Moroccan black Façon Grece olives, also called "baked" olives, are harvested when ripe and when their oil content ranges from 8 to 12 per cent. They are repeatedly soaked in brine and rinsed, then left to dry for three days.The olives are then stored in drums containing salt and rolled clockwise once a month for three months. As a result, the olives have a distinctive salty taste and are soft and shiny. Somewhat bitter, they are used for cooking Moroccan dishes such as couscous.

Spanish Black Olives

Three black table olives are grown in Spain: hojiblanca, manzanilla and gordal. All three can be either green or black. The green olives are made black by a process of oxidation.

The most common Spanish black olive is the hojiblanca, which needs more exposure to the sun than the other two types and is harvested later than the others. This olive is often used in salads or cut up and sprinkled on top of smoked salmon and grated Manchego cheese.

Manzanilla olives are small and tasty with a slightly lemony flavour. They are only grown in Seville, unlike the hojiblanca, and are commonly used as appetizers served with wine, bread and alioli.

Gordal black olives are three times larger than manzanilla olives and are also grown only in Seville. These are speciality olives that are often stuffed.

French Black Olives

Nyons black olives are salt-cured olives from Provence. These black French olives are round, fat and wrinkled. They have many culinary uses, and are used in French garlic bread.

Nicoise olives are small, smooth and oval-shaped and are used to flavour Nicoise salads. They have a fresh, fruity flavour.

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