Although they come in different sizes and shapes, olives have a fairly similar nutritional profile. They usually begin to bud in late spring and are too bitter to be consumed directly off the tree. In order to make them edible, olives need to be fermented and cured in salt, oil and brine which determine their flavor, color and texture.
Just like olive oil, olives are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats that are great for your heart. Olives are also rich in vitamin E and polyphenols which can fight free radicals in the body, and their anti-inflammatory properties can cut the risk of arthritis and asthma down. Furthermore, olives are almost free of calories. However, they are rich in sodium (10 olives contain 370 mg. of sodium, about 20% of the RDA) which can raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems. The salt can be removed by washing the olives in clean water and soaking them overnight in filtered water.
Besides eating them on their own, olives are best enjoyed when added to certain dishes. There’s a great variety of them you can try, each one with its own unique flavor. Here are 8 olive types that can improve your overall health:
Kalamata are Greek olives with a juicy flesh and winey bite, and they go great in a salad with onions, feta cheese and tomatoes. Here’s a nice thing you can try – puree a handful of Kalamata olives with some olive oil, capers, garlic and basil, then spread the paste on a piece of ciabatta bread with some Manchego and arugula. Lovely!
The Moroccan olives have a nice smoky flavor which resembles wine and raisins. These olives are dry-cured in salt and have a wrinkled texture because of the process. They are then soaked in herbs and olive oil which mellows the intense flavor, so they’re pretty rich in sodium, which means you can only eat a few of them. Moroccan olives go great as an addition to rice and pasta.
The Nicoise are small purple-colored olives with a stingy flavor and are the main star in the adored French Nicoise salad. These olives go great with anchovies or shrimps, and should be mixed with garlic, olive oil, white wine and lemon.
Picholines add a distinct flavor to any meal and are created by being marinated in a brine which contains unique “herbes de Provence” and a variety of other flavorings such as lemon, bay leaves and coriander.
The pimento-stuffed Manzanillas can be found in almost any market and have a sweet, tangy and almond undertone. They can also be found stuffed with habanero peppers, garlic, blue cheese, anchovies and almonds. They go great with shallots and shrimps.
Gaeta are a wrinkly type of olive rich in salt with a winey taste that goes great in cooked dishes. You can only use a bit of them due to the high sodium content. Try them with some red pepper flakes and garlic added to sweet potatoes during the last 10 minutes of the process. Yummy!
The Arbequina olives have a nice pleasant flavor and rich undertones which make it a great addition to salads. Toss them with some olive oil, vinaigrette, feta cheese, arugula leaves and chopped endive and enjoy a tasty salad.
The cerignola olives can grow pretty big and have a meaty flesh and smooth skin. They can be either green or black – the black olives have a rich, sweet flavor, while the green ones are somewhat briny in taste. You can mix them with shallots and garlic as well as olive oil and chopped pine nuts for a nice paste that goes great on baguette.