Green & Black Olives
These olives are harvested before they ripen and change from green to a reddish or purplish color. They should be firm and healthy, with no marks except for those of their natural pigmentation. Three quarters of the table olives harvested in Spain are green and come from a large number of native varieties such as Manzanilla, Gordal and Arbequina.
The method traditionally used in Spain for processing green olives has been adopted internationally, it is known as the Spanish or Sevillian style. After the initial lye treatment to remove the natural bitterness, the olives are washed then packed in brine for lactic fermentation. This is a key process not only for preserving the fruit but also for imparting its special organoleptic characteristics.
There are two types of black olives, depending on their color at the time of harvest: natural black olives and olives darkened by oxidation. In Spain, black olives account for approximately 5% of total table olive production, most of them being darkened by oxidation.
Natural black olives are picked when almost ripe or fully ripe so that, depending on the growing location and time of harvesting, they will be reddish, purplish or greenish black, dark purple or dark brown. Unlike green olives, they are placed directly in concentrated brine, without the prior lye treatment.
The other type is olives darkened by oxidation, picked before they are fully ripe that turn black during the oxidation process. In Spain, they are placed in brine prior to oxidation, resulting in a better color and texture.
The varieties that are most widely used in Spain for processing as black olives are Hojiblanca (a late-ripening olive) and Cacereña which has similar characteristics to the well-known Manzanilla variety although it is lighter in color.
Altogether, the Spanish map of native olives includes about 260 varieties. Below you will find the main varieties; some of them are destined to be used as table olive, others for the production of oil or in some cases for both: the dual purpose olives…
Aceituna de Mallorca PDO
A table olive from the native Majorcan variety partially fermented in brine. The Aceituna de Mallorca / Aceituna Mallorquina / Oliva de Mallorca / Oliva Mallorquina Protected Designation of Origin covers three variants of the same olives: green, split green and natural black. The split green olives are flavoured with fennel and chili, and Majorcan olive oil is added to the natural black olives. The degree of ripeness, together with the preparation process, especially seasoning and flavouring, enables the three types of presentation to be obtained.
Aloreña de Málaga PDO
A table olive harvested at the correct degree of ripeness before it changes color, then split, sweetened in brine through natural fermentation and seasoned with thyme, fennel, garlic and pepper. This process is based on age-old customs, passed down from generation to generation over the years and yields three different products depending on the fermentation method used for the olives: fresh green, traditional and cured.
Its name comes from the village of Arbeca (Lleida, Catalonia) and is also grown in Andalusia and Aragon. The production is mostly used for olive oil extraction. This is a small round fruit which produces very fragrant, fruity oils. It is one of the varieties with the highest fat yield; the percentage of oil extracted is between 21%-25%. The oil it produces is more sensitive to oxidation than others.
These olives are mainly harvested in the province of Navarra. This is one of the varieties that is most adaptable to the cold. Its oil is highly concentrated in polyphénols which gives a slightly bitter and spicy flavour with hints of artichoke.
These olives are mainly harvested in Murcia, Alicante, and Valencia. Known for its resistance to adverse weather conditions, this olive variety with high oleic acid content has a slight fruity aroma, bitterness and a mild sweetness.
A variety of olive named for the shape of the fruit (literally, goat’s horn). Originating in Toledo, it is the second most widely cultivated variety in Spain, particularly in the Castile-La Mancha region. Also known as Cornezuelo, the olive oil obtained is very stable, which makes it suitable for blending with other varieties. Olive oil from this varietal is highly aromatic with fruity notes.
An olive type originally from Pedrola (Zaragoza) and widely grown in Aragón. It is an early ripening variety with medium-sized fruit and a mid-range fat yield. It produces very light and fruity oil which makes it ideal for blending with other varietals. The resulting olive oils display a slight bitterness with hints of almonds.
This is a millennium olive variety, one of the oldest in the world, exclusively produced in the “Territori del Sénia” located between the provinces of Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia. The majestic and vigorous olive trees are well adapted to the Mediterranean climate. With hints of green almond and banana flavour it offers a good balance between bitterness, sweetness and spiciness.
The name Gordal (“the fat one”) gets its name due to its shape (rounded) and to its weight (over 6 gr.) Its production area is mainly in the province of Seville (Andalusia), which is why this olive is also called “Gordal Sevillana”. However there are also plantations of this variety of olive in other Spanish provinces such as Córdoba and Huelva. Due to its low oil content, it is used exclusively for processing as a table olive, and not for oil extraction. It has a fine and delicate flavor similar to the Manzanilla olive, and a firm, crunchy, meaty texture. It has a good bitter-salt balance, without any marked bitterness or aftertaste.
The name Hojiblanca (“white leaf”) is due to the color of the underside of the olive leaves, which gives the tree a pale silvery appearance. It is also known as Casta de Cabra, Casta de Lucena and Lucentino. The fruit is large to very large in size, although low in fat yield. It is not overly stable, but the composition of its fatty acids produces very healthy oil. It is widely cultivated in Andalusia. They have a low oil yield with an average of between 17-19%, but the oil is highly prized for its quality. In fact, this olive is used in various types of oil with a Protected Designation of Origin. From an organoleptic aspect there is a predominance of plant flavours: a fruity aroma of fresh grass, slight bitterness with a hint of unripe fruit and other fruits, slightly spicy in the throat with a lingering aftertaste of almonds. The flavour of this olive is balanced between sharp and salty, without any marked bitterness or aftertaste. It has a hard skin, clearly differentiated from the flesh, which is fibrous (woody pulp) with a firm texture.
Variety from Greece, mainly grown in the Mediterranean coast. This is a dual-purpose olive which ripens early. This small oval fruit produces very fruity oils with herbaceous notes and display a slight fruity aroma, bitterness and a mild sweetness. The olive oil obtained is very stable and offer high oleic acid content.
Lechín de Sevilla
A variety of olive named for the milky colour of its pulp and the must it produces (‘lechín’ comes from ‘leche’, which means ‘milk’). It is an early ripening olive with a low fat yield. It produces a very characteristic oil, quite fruity, but sensitive to oxidation.
The name (“little apple” in Spanish) is due to its shape; generally regular and spherical resembling an apple. It is harvested and consumed in both its green and black (ripe) states. The production area is centered on Seville (Andalusia), although it is also found in other Spanish regions, mainly in Badajoz, Extremadura (Carrasqueña), where it is known by different names. It is primarily used as an eating olive, and is perhaps the variety most widely used for this purpose. Owing to its high oil content it is also used for oil production. It has a balanced olive fruit taste (bitter-salt) and a fine delicate flavour. It does not have any marked bitterness or aftertaste (the lingering taste after the olive has been eaten).
Native from the region of Extremadura, this is a dual-purpose olive, it has a low oil content but of high quality and is used mainly as a table olive (80% of the production of Manzanilla Cacereña olives is destined for this latter use). A black fruit in the process of ripening, it has a firm flesh, fine texture and balanced flavour (sharp-salty).
Grown extensively in Andalucía, this is the most popular variety of olive in Spain, cultivated in 50% of the country’s olive groves. It is medium to large in size and has the largest fat yield (percentage of oil extracted), as well as a high anti-oxidant and polyphenol content. This makes the oil it produces one of the most stable and, from a nutritional standpoint, the healthiest.
Grown mainly in Baena, south of Córdoba and to a lesser degree in the neighbouring provinces of Jaén, Málaga, and Granada. The name Picudo comes from its shape, a curved pointed tip with a marked nipple. The Picudo is the second most used olive used in oil extraction, weighing an average of 4.8 grams. The composition of fatty acids is similar to the Lechín variety. With 15% linoleic acid and up to 65% monounsaturated oleic acid, these oils are considered very delicate. The flavour of the oil is soft, with an exotic fruit aftertaste. These large-sized olives are excellent as table olives, available in both green and black.
Serrana de Espadán
This native olive variety is mainly harvested in the provinces of Castellón and north of Valencia. This is a medium size fruit with a high fat yield between 21-25%. From an organoleptic aspect, olive oils that are obtained from this variety display aromas of almonds and fruity flavours.
From the provinces of Guadalajara and Cuenca, this type of olive produces very aromatic and fruity oil, sometimes with a pungent flavour in the mouth, with grassy, hazelnut and banana notes.
Verdial de Huévar
Widely cultivated in Huelva and Seville, this variety of olive is called Verdial (which comes from ‘verde’, meaning ‘green’) because it never completely blackens on ripening. This is a dual-purpose olive produces very fragrant and fruity oils and good as an appetizer.