Edible vs Oil Olives?
How does an Olive grower decide whether to produce edible olives or press their fruit to make oil? In many cases it comes down to the cultivar – certain olives are better to eat than as oil (such as Kalamata). For some however, it is more simply a numbers game.
Take the Taggiasca cultivar for example, from beautiful Liguria in North West Italy. So delicious are these tiny olives and so tasty that we are prepared to pay a high sum for a small jar cured in aromatic Ligurian herbs. Then just imagine how little extra virgin olive oil could be produced from the same quantity of olives – not enough to dress a salad that’s for sure. It is for this reason that we are so proud to be associated with Paolo Cassini, who puts more effort and dedication in to his exceptional oils made exclusively from the Taggiasca cultivar than anyone else we have encountered in the region. It would be easy for him to make a range of edible olive products instead, but he commits himself and his family fully to making the best oil he possibly can and the results are sublime! Paolo is a true artisan and you can taste his work in every drop.
All of that said, we adore edible olives in our family – to accompany an aperitif, as a tapenade, in salads and to cook with. Olives have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years but amazingly we are still only able to name a few cultivars. As mentioned elsewhere on frantoi.org the darker the olive, the riper it was when picked, so green olives indicate harvest at the beginning of the season when olives have a firmer composition and sharper, more linear flavours. Black olives are usually softer, meatier and with a broader flavour profile. Here goes at a list of our favourite edible cultivars and following that, our suggestions on where to source the best edible olives in the UK/on-line.
Our favourite edible olives:
Kalamata (The hero of a Greek salad, deep purple and almond shaped with a rich, smoky, fruity flavour), Lucques (tight, bright and green this almond shaped cultivar from the Languedoc has a buttery sweetness similar to avocado and is great with cheese), Taggiasca (tiny symmetric ovoid with very little flesh but rewards with sweetness and delicacy), Picholine (torpedo-shaped French green olives with a great crunch and tart, nutty, anise flavour), Manzanilla (delicious oval shaped greeny-gold Spanish cultivar with a slightly smoky, almond flavour), Castelvetrano (Italy’s favourite aperitif olive: large, bright and intense green from the Nocerella del Belice cultivar grown in Sicily. Fabulous with chilled white wine).
Some great places to source edible olives:
Brindisa for Manzanilla Olives
Neal’s Yard Dairy for Lucques Olives
Olives Et Al for a fabulous selection and also some delicious nuts.