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All About Olives

Love 'em or hate 'em there's plenty to learn about olives! Our own chef Jo Lusted explains.


Olive Basics

  • The olive fruit (that's right, fruit!) is classified as a drupe like the peach or plum.
  • Olives are harvested from October to January and classified according to their maturity, with green (October) being the least mature, followed by pinker varieties (November), then the fully mature black olives (December) and wrinkled black olives (January).
  • There is a natural bitter chemical present in unprocessed olives that must be removed before they can be eaten. The curing process can happen in a variety of different ways: dry-cured or in oil, water, brine or lye.
  • Though olives do have some fat, it's of the healthy variety. In fact, monounsaturated fats have been found to help increase good cholesterol in your body.
  • Olives are traditionally rich in iron, vitamin E and copper, and are an excellent source of fibre.


  • These popular purplish-black Greek olives are cured in a red-wine-vinegar brine, which gives them their rich and smoky flavour.
  • Like champagne, in Europe, only olives grown in the city of Kalamata are allowed to carry the name. This legality is not binding elsewhere in the world.
  • Hand-picked kalamata olives tend to be of better quality because they are less bruised during the harvesting process. Unfortunately, there are no regulations to prohibit mechanically harvested olives from being labeled as hand-picked.
  • Try them in: olive and fig tapenade.


  • These French green olives are wonderfully crisp and crunchy, with a refreshingly tart flavour, similar to that of Granny Smith apples, believe it or not.
  • Picholine olives are brine-cured. Those made in Provence are marinated with coriander and herbes de Provence, while the American variety are soaked in citric acid.
  • Try them in: Jo's Dirty Martini.


  • These olives are harvested in Cerignola, Italy.
  • Cerignola olives come in red, green and black varieties.
  • Their large size makes them an impressive accompaniment to antipasti and good for stuffing!
  • Try them in: marinated Cerignola olives.


  • These famed tiny, meaty olives from Nice, France, are tree-ripened.
  • If you purchase niçoise olives in bulk, make sure that the store has good turnover and keeps the olives immersed in brine to retain their freshness and moisture.
  • Try them in: classic salade niçoise.


  • These tiny, green Spanish olives have a mild, smoky flavour.
  • Arbequina olives boast a high concentration of healthy, antioxidant-rich oil.
  • Arbequina trees offer more than just tasty morsels; they make lovely ornamental trees, too!
  • Try them in: Arbequina olive bucatini or olive oil chocolate mousse.


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