Spain is home to some 260 different varieties of olives, and each one is special in its own unique way. In fact, table olives are one of the rare products that combine the four basic tastes (sweet, salty, bitter and sour), which makes it possible to include them in almost any recipe! Their versatility never ceases to amaze, as they can be used in appetizers, main dishes, sauces, drinks and desserts (yes, you read that right).
Traditionally, olives are classified by type. The various types are defined by how ripe they are when harvested, and this is determined by their colouring. In general, we divide our olives into two types: green, which are semi-ripe, and black (ranging from black to deep purple), which are harvested just before or when they’re completely ripe.
Interestingly enough, not all varieties of olives are meant to be eaten as table olives. It all depends on factors such as the olive’s fat content, the size of the stone compared with the flesh, how hard it is to remove the stone, and the skin’s characteristics. In order to be upgraded to table olives, the fruit must have an average fat content, a small, smooth stone that can be removed easily, dense flesh, and delicate skin. That’s why our Gordal, Hojiblanca and Manzanilla are the best varieties to use as table olives.
Other varieties are mainly used to extract oil. You’d also be surprised how bitter and hard olives can be when first picked from the tree. Olives are the only fruit that can’t be eaten directly after being picked from the tree. They need to be processed after harvesting in September, October and November for their full flavour to emerge. To remove the inherent bitterness of green olives such as Gordal and Manzanilla, the fruit goes through a fermentation process that preserves it and locks in its savoury taste, colour and aroma. The Hojiblanca olive, on the other hand, must be harvested early and undergo a ripening acceleration process that enables its dark colour to develop. No, not all black olives are naturally black!