Olives are a staple in Greek cuisine and are the fruit of the olive tree, scientifically named Olea europaea, which is native to the Mediterranean, Northern Iran, Northern Iraq, and northern Saudi Arabia. The olive branch has long been a symbol for peace, while the fruit itself represents wealth and prosperity. Olives are rich in vitamin E and contain a number of common phenolic compounds that are beneficial to the human body. When shopping for olives, you may notice that they are available in two different colors: black and green. But what is the difference between the two?
Black olives are the fruit of the Olea europaea tree, picked when the fruit is fully ripened and mature. They are typically harvested between mid-November and the end of January or early February, and their colors range from purple, brown, to black. Black olives contain 117 mg/100 g of polyphenol and are abundant in anthocyanins. They are brined and prepared for consumption to reduce their bitterness and are used as a main ingredient in various dishes. Black olives are often used in pizzas, salads, breads, pastas, and as a rub or crumble for meats.
Green olives come from the same tree as black olives but are harvested when they have reached their full size, before the ripening process begins. They are usually harvested from the end of September to mid-November and come in shades of green and yellow. Green olives contain 161 mg/100 g of polyphenol, mainly tyrosols, flavonols, phenolic acids, and flavones. As they are picked before ripening, extra care is needed when preparing them for consumption. This is usually done by packing them in salt, pickling, soaking in oil or lye, and fermenting them in brine for six to twelve months. Green olives are often stuffed with peppers, garlic, cheese, onions, pimientos, anchovies, or jalapenos to enhance their flavor and are commonly used as snacks or appetizers.
- Green olives are harvested before ripening, while black olives are harvested when fully ripened.
- Green olives are usually pitted and stuffed with various ingredients to enhance their flavor, whereas black olives are less likely to be stuffed.
- Black olives contain more olive oil than green olives, as the latter undergoes a longer fermentation process that tends to dry them out.