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Nicholas Debwany
Nicholas Debwany

Buy Olives


I'm sure there's a proud parent or two out there whose kid snacks on olives like grapes. I'm not one of those parents, nor was I that kid. But I can tell you I eventually came around to the salty little flavor bombs in the late 1990s, thanks in equal measure to muffulettas, dirty martinis, and this most famous and beloved recipe. I suspect many of you have similar experiences.

It's possible, though, that you haven't yet embraced olives, maybe based on your experience with those bland black circles some call a pizza topping. Or maybe you've spent most of your time and money in the jarred, pre-stuffed olive section of the grocery store.

Think of olives as the fruits they are. Native to the Mediterranean and dating back to biblical times, they start out green on the trees and, as they ripen, develop color and flavor. (Well, the curing process also impacts their color and flavor. More on that in a minute.)

Most commercial olives also are harvested by machine, a cost-effective method that operates on the premise that olives ripen at the same rate on the tree (they don't!). The highest-quality olives are picked, sorted, and even stuffed by hand, says Ryan Foote, a Whole Foods Market specialty coordinator. You'll pay more for them.

Then there's what's labeled the "ripe olive." These are young, green olives that are lye-cured, then exposed to oxygen and ferrous gluconate, an iron compound, which produces a black, smooth, mild-tasting olive. Green ripe olives are produced the same way but not oxidized; that's why they stay green.

What's more, pitted olives soften and take on the flavor of the brine they're sitting in. Or, as our own Matt Duckor so bluntly puts it: "They become a deflated, literal shell of their former selves."

There are hundreds of olive varietals. Small, firm Spanish Manzanillas are commonly used to make generically labeled "green olives" and branded California Ripe Olives. Here's a rundown of other popular types and some worth seeking out.

The olives should be mostly submerged in brine. "That's your first clue as to whether or not they're being taken care of. This will keep them fresh and moist, and from drying out and oxidizing," Foote says.

It's not a bad idea to spoon some of the brine into the container with your olives. At Whole Foods, Foote says they'll let you take home extra brine in a separate container free of charge. Other stores might, too. Never hurts to ask.

Jarred olives keep for months, and olives from the fresh bar will be fine for two to three weeks. The quicker you eat them, the better their flavor will be. There's no need in either case to constantly replace the brine. Just make sure there's always brine left.

Graded Beldi olives in a lemon, basil and mint marinade. We crack the olives to allow the aromatics to infuse into the flesh, imparting a refreshing herbal citrus flavour throughout the fruit.In Greek mythology Minthe was a Nymph from Mount Mintha...

Crisp, lush green Sicilian olives; this singular varietal serves as the strongest reminder that olives are indeed a fruit. A proud winner of two Great Taste stars from the Guild of Fine Foods, Nocellara is the perfect table olive - especially in this...

Plump, naturally ripened, black olives in a simple herbes de Provençe dressing. Dry-cured in sea salt they have a meaty texture and a rich umami saltiness, with notes of liquorice and aniseed to finish. The classic herb mix enhances the flavours, without...

Intensely aromatic olive with aniseed notes and a pleasant touch of bitterness with no stones. Grown in Spain, these small purple olives are carefully produced in small batches, fermented slowly and naturally in barrels of brine over several months, so...

Superior-grade Kalamata olives in a red wine vinegar brine and no stones. Named after the city of Kalamata, these well-known Greek table olives are soft and fleshy to the bite, and full of fruitiness. Very distinctive, they are much loved much-loved...

Big juicy olives from Andalucia, wi


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