A friend posed this question to me over the weekend as we snacked on a plate full of various olives and cheeses: How many types of olives are there? This may be a question most people think about when poised in front of an overwhelming olive bar in a grocery store. It is more than likely quickly dismissed once a particular olive-of-choice has been decided upon. There are, in fact, several hundreds of olive varieties! The Olive Oil Source, a comprehensive resource for all things olive oil related, has a list of over 1,045 varieties. Each variety depends on location, curing process, taste, oil content, ripeness, and so much more.
Here is a definition of an olive from Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts:
A supercolossal olive? Amazing!
Here are some other fun facts about olives:
v The olive tree, olea europaea, is an evergreen.
v There are several olive producers from around the world, but the main contenders are Spain, Italy, and Greece (Smith 213).
v Italian pronunciation = o-lee-vay; German pronunciation = o-lee veh; French pronunciation = o-leev; Norwegian pronunciation (“olive” is spelled “oliven”) = ohl-eev-er (Labensky 279).
v Glucoside oleuropin is the chemical that triggers the bitter taste in freshly picked olives (Smith 212).
v California olives are said to have a milder flavor than those imported from the Mediterranean due to the difference in the curing and preserving process (Smith 213).
v Usual fillings in olives are pimientos, almonds, anchovies, jalapeños, onions, and capers (Smith 213).
v “Ten small olives are said to have the equivalent nutritional value of one hen’s egg” (Smith 213).
The number of olive varieties continues to expand as more producers from various regions become involved in this horticultural process. Please let us know if you’ve tried a supercolossal olive—we’re curious!
The Olive Oil Source. http://www.oliveoilsource.com/varietals
Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print
Labensky, Steven. Et al. Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. Print
Smith, Andrew F. et al. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print