Anyone who has visited our store knows that we offer a wide variety of fresh marinated olives, which can be found both in the cheese case and in bulk in our deli. Olives make up an important part of the healthy Mediterranean diet, so why not take a closer look at them? Here is some useful information regarding several varieties of olives, from harvesting facts to preparation suggestions...
(Much of the information contained in this blog article was found in a web posting on About.com, written by Nancy Gaifyllia.)
The color of olives indicates what time during the harvesting season they were picked. Harvesting runs from October to January: The greenest olives are harvested in October, the red or pink in November, the black in December, and the wrinkled black (not to be confused with olives that have shriveled due to curing in salt) in January.
Small Cretan Green Olives
Crete is famous for these tiny olives, which are also cultivated in Messinia and Zakynthos. Despite their size, they are packed with oil and are the source of some of the world's best olive oil. When green, small quantities are harvested as table olives. When black and ripe (December, January, and sometimes February), they are almost exclusively harvested for the production of olive oil. Most of the table olives are consumed in Greece, never reaching western markets; the olive oil, famous the world over, is consumed in Greece and exported.
Halkithiki Green Olives
These olives are harvested in October and are grown solely on the Halkithiki Peninsula. Recently, green olives from Halkidiki were finally granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union (EU). A PDO product is given this designation/label to highlight the fact that it is produced in a specific geographical region, and therefore unique. The Halkdiki green olives are huge due to the microclimate and the geography: low-lying hills, lots of flat land and the sea being nearby. These olives have a unique flavor profile and, like all other olives, are very healthy for you.
Green olives from Nafplion
Harvested at the beginning of the season in October, these olives are named after a town which is found on the coast and which is famous for its exotic places and nature. The Nafplion olive is rather small and has a nutty flavor. They are used in Greek specialties, including cold appetizers, as topping for warm main courses, and in salads or garnishes. These kinds of olives are sometimes used simply for decorating salads and various meals. They may also be used in local kebabs, and beside chicken, lettuce and mayo.
Kalamata Olives, Red & Black
Also known as "pink" olives, these are harvested in November. If left on the tree longer to further ripen, the Kalmata turn black and are harvested, at full ripeness, in December. This is the olive most recognize as the Greek olive. Kalamata is a region in Greece famous for its production of olives and olive oils.
Most Kalamata olives are split prior to being brined or pickled, which allows the flavor, particularly of vinaigrette, to soak into the interior of the olive. Yet before you begin eating, be aware that these olives are usually sold with their seeds in. If you plan to serve these, eat them yourself, or add them to recipes, be sure to remove the seed first.
Wrinkled Black Olives or "Throubes"
Unlike olives that shrivel up after curing, these are fully mature olives that are not picked...They ripen and shrivel on the tree. Nets are placed under the trees and the olives fall off when fully ripe. The wrinkling is their natural state. They are the only olives that can be eaten directly from the tree, but are dry-cured for commercial use. Most throubes come from the Greek island of Thassos. Favorite ways to serve them are with Patatosalata (Greek potato salad), or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano. They are meaty with a strong olive taste, and are not used to make olive oil.