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Olive Types and How to Select Olives at the Grocery Olive Bar

Updated on August 10, 2013

Variety of Olives

A mixture of antipasti olives as served at table.
A mixture of antipasti olives as served at table. | Source

Olives a Primer

The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean Sea area and countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq. It is celebrated in writing from the Ancient Greek to modern times.

How an olive is cured and how it is seasoned make up the different types of olives. We have a relatively small selection of olives here in the USA. I once toured an open air market in Morocco and there were two dozen olive stalls that all promoted their olive curing as the best.

There are hundreds of types of olives. Each region has a particular type of olive. Some olives are grown specifically for pressing olive oils.

A Bit of Olive History....Just a Bit

Although the Ancient Greeks said the olive tree would only grow near the Mediterranean, the olive tree is ubiquitous in the older area of both Phoenix and Tucson USA. Because it is a deciduous tree, the people who brought it to the Southwest were most likely trying to bring an easy to grow low water and leafy tree here! It does grow well here in the desert Southwest USA. It grows well in the SW desert. Unfortunately, people found the tree to be a problem. Not only are many people allergic to the tree but if the tree is not sprayed to stop the olive tree from fruiting, the resulting fruit (when it falls on a car) will stain your car if you park beneath a tree. I must also add, that since the tree never looses the leaves it is also a dust filled dirty tree. Because of this the tree is highly out of favor in the desert Southwest. It is actually forbade in many cities!

On a happier note, there are several Olive Oil Companies that are located in the Southwest USA because of how easily the olive tree grows here!

Now onto the tasty bit....

At the Grocery Store

Several local stores have an antipasti self serve bar where olives are the stars!
Several local stores have an antipasti self serve bar where olives are the stars! | Source

Now Featured at the Grocery Store!

Just recently two of our local grocery stores added Antipasti bars. These are mostly all olives and you pack your own. You can mix or match whatever olives you want.

The cost is $8.99 a pound. If you think that is expensive, try the laboriously long and multiple stepped process of making your own olives!

Calamata Olives

A familiar olive type. Also called Kalamata.
A familiar olive type. Also called Kalamata. | Source

Calamata Kalamata Olives

These are tree ripened olives that come from Kalamata Greece. The alternative spelling is probably because these olives come from somewhere else but are prepared in a manner that is in the same style as the Greeks do in the region of Kalamata.

Olives may be soaked in a brine when green and unripened or soaked in brine after they ripen to a purple.

The Kalamata Greek Olive is picked when ripened to a dark purple, soaked in a brine ( a laborious and long-term process), and then packed with salt, oregano, vinegar, and olive oil. This is the basic recipe and there are many variations.

The Kalamata is generally a large meaty to the tooth (no not meaty tasting) robust flavored olive. It has a slightly salty taste and stands up well to meat dishes.

Greek Olives

The star at most Greek Restaurants!
The star at most Greek Restaurants! | Source

Greek Olives

These olives are harvested before they ripen to a purple shade. They are placed in a brine for several weeks and then processed to create the very familiar Greek olives.

A Greek style olive generally is seasoned with oregano, lemon, white wine vinegar, and garlic. Use this as a general guideline as there are many recipes for the familiar Greek Olive.

The preparation of olives from tree requires several weeks of work where the olives are harvested, washed, cracked and the placed in a brine. The brine is changed often as much as two times a day. Only then can the final step of seasoning and packing begin.

All this work will make you happy to have olives available in your grocery! Also, you can take a basic olive and add your own seasonings at home, you know!

Read on.....

Sicilian Style Olive and Curing

A lesser known olive (in the USA).
A lesser known olive (in the USA). | Source

Sicilian Olives

These are green olives that are processed and/or packed with a red pepper. They generally taste peppery and compliment antipasti plates that are heavy on the cured meats.

Sicilian olives with the processed in red pepper strips have a unique taste. However, you can place your own red pepper strips in any olives to mimic the peppery taste. Do try the real thing first though!

Sicilian olives are a favorite!

Stuffed with Blue Cheese

These are very popular, probably why the tray is nearly empty!
These are very popular, probably why the tray is nearly empty! | Source

Stuffed Olives

The pungent taste of Blue Cheese and the bright flavors of the olive compliment each other very well.

Olives are stuffed with nearly all manner of other foods! From pickled garlic to nuts the olive is a perfect little compliment!

Here are some other ways to make your very own olive signature dish!

Bring home about a pound of olives. Smash the olives a bit on your cutting board using a big wooden spoon.

Clean and smash some garlic cloves and toss with the olives (let marinade for at least a half hour before serving)

Red pepper flakes are one of my favorites. Just sprinkle on and toss.

Lemon is superb when squeezed on olives. Squeeze a whole lemon and toss.

Try rosemary or basil either dried or fresh. I usually drizzle a bit of olive oil on just to make sure the herbs are activated and will marinade well.

Lots of people like anchovies stuffed in olives too.

Now, this may sound redundant you can also add olive oil to the olives! Use a your favorite flavored olive oil.

Great Olive Sampler Gift (for you or someone else!)

Olio&Olive Italian Mini Olive Snack Variety Sampler Pack 6x4oz.
Olio&Olive Italian Mini Olive Snack Variety Sampler Pack 6x4oz.

Italian Olive Sampler Castelvetrano, Cerignola, Taggiasche, Gaeta, Baresane and Country Mix Olives.


FIVE Pound Olive Sampler THINK BIG!

Olive Sampler - 5 bags (1 lb each bag)
Olive Sampler - 5 bags (1 lb each bag)

1 lb of Castelvetrano Olives 1 lb of Gaeta Olives 1 lb of Marina di Gioiosa Calabresi (spicy) olives 1 lb of Large Green Cerignola Olives 1 lb of Sal Secco Olives These olives are fresh from Italy


The Mediterranean Sea Area (Home of the olive)


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    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      DDE, You are so kind. I always think of Europe as having a much more developed appreciation of olives. In the USA we only had the bottled green cured olives for years!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Olive Types and How to Select Olives at the Grocery Olive Bar great hub on types of olives, we have tons of olives annually and I enjoy the black olives best it is so delicious when fried or pickled. even roasted. You have created an informative and useful hub on olives.

    • karenfritz profile image

      Karen Fritzemeier 

      5 years ago

      I'll have to look for the garlic stuffed version. That sounds fantastic.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Back atcha Carol7777!!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      I absolutely love olives...any and all. And when I see those olive bars I cannot resist... Great job as always.

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Hi Karenfritz, I would probably put basic green olives with pimento stuffing on it for kids. For grown up tastes, how about garlic stuffed olives? or the spicier Sicilian olives? I think you can go anyway you want!

    • karenfritz profile image

      Karen Fritzemeier 

      5 years ago

      Great primer! I know very little about olives, other than I LOVE them on my pizzas, but this helps me understand the differences. Which type of olive would you recommend for pizzas?

    • NMLady profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Nice to have you reading my stuff appreciate it from you!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      Av wonderful read and thank you for sharing.

      Voted up.



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