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You’re probably familiar with the chartreuse olives that accompany your Friday martini and the pitted black ones that top your pizza. But there are many more varieties of the antioxidant-rich fruits -- hundreds, in fact. And depending on when they’re picked, how they’re cured, and what marinade (if any) is used, the little nibblers can taste, feel, and look vastly different. Here are our favorite types. And be sure to check out our favorite recipes featuring olives. Cheers!
Commonly stuffed with pimientos or garlic, these brined, pitted green olives are a must for dirty martinis. They’re also perfect for pairing with sherry and sparkling wines like cava.
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Côte d’Azur, France
Labeled “Niçoise-style” when harvested outside their native Riviera, the small coppery-purple olives have a delicate tanginess that’s ideal with seafood or on pizza.
NOTE: When purchasing olives from bins at a deli counter, be sure to cover them with the liquid in which they’re stored to keep them fresh. If there isn’t enough liquid available, pour olive oil over them at home.
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Their unfermented processing lends them a subtle sweetness. Crunchy and mild, they taste great tossed into green salads or earthy grains like farro and bulgur.
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Rarely exported from their home in France (but now also grown elsewhere), picholines have a crispness and floral brightness that go well with cheeses and cocktails.
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Often preserved in brine or olive oil, these smooth beauties are warm and winy. They’re a versatile ingredient in all kinds of Mediterranean cooking.
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Khaki in color, these olives are “cracked” before being brined, then mixed with anise and fennel. The process infuses them with a robust aroma and makes them easy to pit and crush for use in sauces and pasta dishes.
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These rust-colored fruits are often pressed into extra-virgin olive oil. Served whole as part of a tapas menu, they have a faint bitterness that complements dried fruit, fresh cheese, and a glass of sherry.
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An antipasto favorite, the eggplant-colored olives hail from central Italy, where their sour yet salty flesh is tossed with pastas and onto pizzas.
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After ripening to a jet-black color, these are dry-cured, then packed in brine or oil. Their pungent aroma and meaty texture, ideal for tapenades, mean they also hold up well in stews.
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To cook with these, you’ll have to slice off the dense flesh, which tends to cling to the pit. They are a good match for a range of Italian dishes as well as salty and spicy charcuterie, such as salami.
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Curing the mature olives in salt makes them as wrinkly and chewy as prunes, and it gives them a hint of that sweetness, too. Slicked with oil after brining, they add savory intensity to salads and stews.
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These sunset-hued olives are often eaten at breakfast in Turkey. Large and substantive, they have an assertive tartness that complements Middle Eastern flavors.
Now, try some of these different varieties in our favorite olive recipes.