Big, small, pitted, stuffed, green or black: olives have been included in recipes since ancient Greece and the Roman Empire as part of the Mediterranean culture and diet.
Table olives are a very healthy addition for those who suffer from hypertension and high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) because they contain fiber and monounsaturated fats as well as Vitamin E, which has an antioxidant effect.
Twenty-five percent of the world production of table olives comes from Spain, and they are exported to the US, Italy, Germany, UK and Russia, among other countries. However, Greek, French, Italian, Turkish and Israeli olives are also highly prized.
Although there are many varieties and forms of preparation, three types of olives are especially noteworthy for their organoleptic qualities: the Spanish Gordal, the Greek Kalamata and the French Picholine.
Spanish Gordal olives
One of the most valued table olives in Spain, its name comes from “gordo” (fat), as the fruit is large and round. It originates and is grown in Seville, Andalusia, where some of the world’s tastiest olives are produced. Its color is intensely green and is prized for its taste, quality and meatiness. There are many ways of dressing the Gordal olives, but they are delicious macerated in water with crushed garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, carrots, one pepper, half a bitter orange, salt and white wine vinegar. You can find them in gourmet stores around the world.
Greek Kalamata olives
Greece produces many types of table olives, but the most appreciated internationally are the Kalamata. Fleshy, almond-shaped and purple, they come from Kalamata, a region next to the Ionian Sea in the central Gulf of Messinia, where the olive trees are an essential part of the landscape. Kalamata olives stand out for their distinctive salty flavor. They are kept in a mixture of olive oil brine to make them more flavorful. Their characteristic taste attracts the attention of chefs looking for the highest quality. If you prepare a delicious Greek salad with yogurt sauce and feta cheese, remember to add some Kalamata olives: they will undoubtedly improve the taste and presentation.
French Picholine olives
Picholine olives are usually grown in the south of France in the region of Provence, and to a lesser extent on the French Riviera and Languedoc. They are considered a rare—and expensive— delicacy, mostly because very few fruits are extracted from each olive tree. Easily identifiable, the Picholine has an elongated body with an asymmetrical shape and a color that varies from light green to straw green. The skin of this olive is crusty, and the flesh is firm because it is allowed to ferment for about three months in salty water, which gives it a mild briny taste with delightful floral notes. ■