My husband and I had a disagreement about which olives are better, green or black. One peaceful evening in the Olive Crazy household we were settled in watching something on the Military Channel, my husband’s favorite channel. He had a jar of green pimento stuffed olives and I had a bowl of previously canned black olives. He was digging his olives out with one of those long iced tea spoons and I was maneuvering one black olive at a time onto my pinky and then into my mouth (what a weirdo). My husband, Tom, started with the fightin’ words, “green olives are better than black olives.”
Now I don’t really have a preference as I am truly olive crazy, in my book all olives are delicious, but he threw down the gauntlet and I was up to the challenge.
“Have you ever eaten black olives”, I asked hoping this discussion would go the way of his “mayonnaise is gross” pronouncement, where he stated that he had never tried it but just thought it was gross – end of discussion. But no.
“Yes I have,” said Tom.
“Well, what was the problem,” said I.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“You’ve got to give me more than that, ” I said, “be specific”.
Fortunately a WWII tank attack began on the television and Tom’s attention was diverted. I went back to munching my recently maligned black olives, and wondered how to spin this into an article.
And here we go. Green olives are unripened olives of any variety. As most olive varieties ripen they move to red, to purple, to brown, then on to black when fully ripe, but before rotting.
The olives we were eating at the time were actually the same variety, Manzanillo, had both been harvested when they were green but had undergone different pickling processes. The pimento stuffed green olives had been soaked in brine and other chemicals fit for human consumption, then pitted, stuffed with a pimento, and jarred in more brine. The black olives, which started out green, were pickled in lye, pitted, and canned.
Pickling fruits and vegetables is an ancient means of keeping food edible for long periods of time. Lack of refrigeration was the mother of invention. As far as olives go, pickling made the olive palatable. Raw olives are very bitter. A peanut grower I know from southwest Georgia tried one right off the olive tree hanging over his table at a restaurant in Italy. He said his mouth went numb.
I know my husband pretty well and I am certain that his objection to black olives is a texture and salt thing. Lye removes a lot of the flavor and firmness of the olive fruit. He’s not a big fan of soft fruits and vegetables and he loooooooves salt. Black olives just aren’t salty enough.
Whether its black olives or green olives you prefer, I hope you enjoy the olives of your choice.
May the sun shine through your branches.