Supermarkets are full of a variety of olives, but what makes each one unique?
Writer, poet, and travel writer Lawrence Durrell said of olives, “The whole Mediterranean…the wine, the ideas…seems to ride in the sour pungent taste of those black olives…A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.”
Mr. Durrell sadly left us in 1900 so he probably didn’t get much of a chance to explore all the delicious varieties of olives we see in markets today. The days of deciding between the green and the black, the pitted or non-pitted, and the pimento stuffed are over. Enter juicy and wonderful olives like Kalamata, the Ponentine, and the Lugano.
Because olives are a tasty fruit, these days you can even find them stuffed with things like blue cheese, cream cheese and the spicy Jalapeno. But which variety is right for your veggie tray or favorite dish?
The Taste is in the Variety
Here’s a look at a variety of olives:
- Kalamata –From Greece, these black olives are ripened to a purple color and once brine-cured they offer a fruity sort of flavor. You can’t eat just one. Great with cheese, alone or in a pasta.
- Ponentine – For a milder taste comes the Ponentine. From Italy, this black olive is first salt-brined and stored in vinegar. These are good for snacking or cooking.
- Lugano – These are great for a wine and cheese tasting party! These black olives are salty and often come with olive leaves to enhance the flavor even more.
- Nicoise – From France, these black olives are also fully ripened and offer a nutty taste. The Nicoise is great for stuffing since the pit is large and full. Often served in salads.
- Picholine – The small green Picholine olive is another choice from France. It’s salt-brined and lightly salted with a sort of citrusy taste. Great with wine or in salads and generally sold with the pit in.
- Manzanilla – From Spain comes another green olive variety. It’s loaded with salt and is lactic acid brined. These are great with tapas or appetizers.
- Gaeta – This tasty Italian black olive is rubbed with oil which makes the olive look wrinkled. Because it’s on the bland side, it’s usually stuffed with herbs such as rosemary or thyme. Nice for snacking or appetizers.
- Basic Black Olives –The most boring variety, but they deserve a mention. Often used as a pizza topping or in basic salads.
Choose the Right Olive
Deciding which olive to use depends entirely on your tastes. We recommend visiting a self-serve deli or olive bar (usually full of many olive varieties) and sampling a few or more. So, buy a variety and let your taste buds decide which olive will become your favorite for snacking or cooking.