Olives are one of those unique foods that don’t only taste delicious, but also offer many health benefits. It is however important to learn how to choose a good table olive, since they vary extensively in appearance, flavour and texture.
We asked the South African Olive Industry Association how to choose a good table olive. Here are a few pointers:
The first characteristic to take important notice of is of course the appearance of the olive. The olive must always looks physically appealing and it must make you want to eat it immediately. Physical defects are not good.
Next important point is smell. A good olive will always smell great. The aroma will give a good indication of how the processing was managed as most of the volatile components are a result of the fermentation process. If not fermented, the aroma is usually that of the added ingredients, like garlic, herbs and various other flavourings. An off-fermentation will be noticeable on the nose, and any off-odour is totally unacceptable in quality table olives.
Right so now we get to the taste. As with anything, taste and flavour are very subjective, so we always suggest that newbies to olives start with a blander product, just like they start new wine drinkers with a sweeter wine. Once hooked on these little delicacies, then move onto products with more flavour, the natural olive flavour in particular. A fully fermented table olive should display a balance between the natural flavour of the fruit, the natural lactic acid and the added salt and vinegar.
A good table olive should have a degree of firmness in the flesh, without being tough or woody. The skin should not be too tough and the flesh should detach from the pit quite easily. The texture is determined by many factors, but most importantly is when the olives are harvested and cultivated. The methods of processing play an important role, which can either maintain the texture of the olive or compromise it.
5. Final tip
It’s important to experience as many different styles and flavours as possible and in so doing, build up a profile of the olives you like.