Assorted olives

Olive Facts

Olive Facts

A few interesting olive facts

  • Olives are a fruit, not a veggie.
  • Olive trees can live for thousands of years although the average lifespan seems to be between 300-600 years.  One tree on Crete is over 4,000 years old and still produces olives.  They’ve been around for 20-40 million years!
  • Olive trees grow great in poor soil and dry conditions
  • Olive trees take their time becoming fruitful, blooming after 4 years and producing fruit after 15
  • Olive trees create enormous amounts of olive oil
  • Olives symbolize hope for a peaceful future (Noah’s bird brought back an olive branch)
  • Olive maturity is what determines the color.  Green is unripe while dark purple or black is ripe
  • Olives can be picked a number of ways and sometimes not picked at all but left to fall to the ground.  However, the best olives and olive oils come from those that are hand-picked.
  • Olives are not eaten straight off the tree. They are processed with brine before eating.  Bite into an olive pulled fresh from the tree and you are will experience one of the more bitter tastes you’ve ever experienced.
  • Olives are turned into olive oil 90% of the time.  Only 10% make it as olives.
  • Olive are a rich source of oils, minerals, and vitamins A, E, K and B.
  • Olives can improve your skin either by eating them or using lotions/creams made of olives.  Olive contain oleic acid which keeps your skin soft and healthy as well as vitamin E which is a well known anti-oxidant.

Types/Varieties of olives

You’ll see a vast variety of olives and olive oils on the shelves, either virtual or physical, as you shop.  Lets dig into that a bit.  As mentioned above, the main difference between green and black olives is how ripe they are.  Green olives are less ripe than black olives. You’ll seem the often pitted and stuffed with a variety of fillings such as anchovies, almonds, pimentos, etc.  The color transition of olives usually go from green to light brown, then to red, purple and finally black.  It may come as a surprise, but there are no green or black olive trees.  They all grow on the same trees and the difference is when they were harvested.  Green olives are harvested earlier in the season while black olives are harvested later.  That being said, there can be a world of difference in the olive based on it’s maturity at the time of harvesting.  As you might expect, the earlier harvesting of the green olive results in a firmer texture while the black olives are generally meatier and juicer.

Green Olives are picked early in the harvesting season and are therefore less ripe.  They offer a firmer texture and a nuttier flavor.

Purple Olives are picked between the green and the black olives so more ripe than green, not quite as ripe as black.  So a middle ground variety of olive but one that has a very loyal following.

Black Olives are picked at the end of the harvesting season so they have had plenty of time to mature and ripen.  They are usually meatier, juicier, and have softer flavors.