All About the Olive
As you can imagine, the Mount Zero Olives team get asked all kinds of questions about olives - from how many varieties there are, to what they taste like; to how to store them and how to cook them.
Well, we could talk about olives all day (and we do), so to help you understand our favourite fruit (yep fruit folks!) we put together a quick Q&A below which addresses some of the most common queries. If you have more questions, email us or hit us up on the socials.
What is an olive?
Olives are small fruit that grow on olive trees (Olea europaea). They belong to a group of fruit called drupes, or stone fruits. They are related to mangoes, cherries, peaches, almonds and pistachios.
How many types of olives are there? Strictly speaking there are thousands of botanic varietals to be found across the globe - plants with produce influenced by soil, grafting, land management and harvesting. However, there are a few well-known types which have become famous for their reliable flavours and availability.
What is the difference between black and green olives? The reality is that all olives will start out green and turn black as part of their ripening process. Most olives can be cured and eaten either green or black (our Manzanilla’s in particular), however some are better just black (Kalamatas) or green (Gordals).
Please note that some very bright green or very dark black olives have been coloured to achieve a certain finish. We do not dye or manipulate the colours of our olives. Mount Zero Olives doesn’t believe in artificial colouring or flavouring and celebrate natural seasonal variations.
What olives does Mount Zero Olives sell?
Mount Zero Olives grows three main varieties of fruit: Mazanilla, Gordal and Wild and source and cure a further five varieties from other Australian growers: Kalamata, Ligurian, Hardy’s Mammoth and Arbequina.
Each type of olive tree produces a different style and flavour of fruit. These differences are to be enjoyed across the seasons. Some people some find a favourite that becomes a staple, and others revolve their selection to match a particular mood or menu. Below is a little more detail on each fruit:
The Manzanilla olive hails from Sevilla, southern Spain. Due to the region’s fruit production scale it has become one one of the most famous and recognisable types of olives in the world. The Manzanilla means small apple in Spanish and it helps to explain the sound shape of this variety. Manzanillas are an extremely fleshy olive with a relatively small pip. They make a great table olive, as well as being very simple to pip and use on pizza, pasta and salads.
Gordal olives are instantly recognisable for their size - they are huge! Also originating in Seville, Sapin, Gordal means "fat one" in Spanish. True to its name, these large plump olives are fleshy but do not have a high oil content, which make them the perfect table olive. Our Grampians grown, green Gordal olives are naturally fermented in brine maintaining a depth of flavour true to the fruit itself and are a great match with white, sparkling wines or better yet a crisp martini.
When olives trees were planted in Western Victoria (including the the Mount Zero Grove) and parts of South Australia 50 to 100 years ago, they were largely grafted trees. Over time some groves have been allowed to go “wild” and trees have self-sown. The original root stock has grown through producing a “wild” olive like no other Our “wilds” are a small tear drop shaped fruit, with a sweeter, subtle rosewater flavour.
Kalamata olives are another famous variety and hail from the Kalamata region of Southern Greece. They are reasonably large, contain moderate amounts of oil and are instantly recognisable for their lovely deep purple-black skin. Mount Zero Organic Kalamata's are firm in flesh, with a rich flavour. Kalamata olives are the classic table olive variety and are also fantastic in salads. Brine curing ensures the characteristic fruitiness of the Kalamata is well preserved.
Ligurian olives originate from the Liguria region in North-Western Italy. The fruit is picked as it is in the process of changing from green to black, giving it a striking medium to dark brown color. While the olives are small in size, they are big in flavor. The texture is firm and meaty on the outside, but soft on the inside, with a citrus, herbaceous and nutty flavour.
Although they, originate from Catalonia in Spain, Arbequinas now grow throughout the world including Australia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and the United States. They are light-brown in colour and known for their lovely buttery flavour; they have a crisp texture and slightly peppery finish and are a fantastic table olive and a great garnish for salads and platters.
This fruit was planted in Australia by Thomas Hardy, founder of the Hardy Wine company, along the banks of the Torrens River in Adelaide. The Hardy's Mammoth is large (as its name suggests) green in colour and sweet in taste.
How do I store (and enjoy) Mount Zero Olives?
All Mount Zero Olives are naturally fermented in brine – simply salt water and a splash of vinegar. This process means that the olives cure over many months, which facilitates the development of each fruit’s unique, rich, natural flavour.
While many people are aware of the benefit of live cultures in fermented foods, many fail to make the connection with fermented olives. Naturally fermented olives provide a rich source of Lactobacillus, which is great for our digestive system.
We recommend you store our olives out of the sun, below 30 degrees, and ensure that you always have a slight covering of olive oil across the surface of the brine. The surface of the brine can be susceptible to growing yeast and possibly mould when exposed to air and a layer of oil will assist to prevent this.
What is the nutritional value of an olive?
Olives are a fruit but are often categorised with vegetables, they contain very little carbohydrates and the number of carbohydrates does not vary much from species to species or from green olives to black.
Olives are very high in vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants. Studies have shown that they are good for the heart, and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer.
In Time magazine Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian and manager of Wellness Nutrition Services at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute reported that “Olives are one of the most nutrient-dense fruits around, and although they are mostly fat, that fat is a healthy monounsaturated kind which translates into benefits to the heart, brain and waistline.”
Parthena Kotzekidou, PhD, professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece said “My research shows that olives are a good source of biophenols, a kind of antioxidant that prevents the accumulation of bad cholesterol in artery walls.” Antonio Bevilacqua, PhD, a microbiologist at the University of Foggia in Italy, says he has isolated some probiotic strains” (including Lactobacillus). And that the “probiotic potential of olives is another compelling reasons to eat them.”
It is the healthy fats in olives that are extracted to produce extra virgin olive oil, one of the key components of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Olives are also recommended in the popular Keto diet as one cup of olives has approximately 14.4 grams of fat but only 160 calories (compared to an avocado's 234 calories).
How do you recommend I choose which of your olives to buy?
This is a hard question! Everyone has a different platte and as with sweets, meats or wines a different favourite flavour or variety.
We would suggest you read each of our descriptors and sample each to settle on your family favourites. Or consider your reason for purchase. For table olives our Wild olives are a pretty picture and mix well with other meatier olives like the Gordal. For a shaper stronger flavour in cooking try our Kalamata. This is the olive often used to spice olive bread and in richer slow cooked meat dishes.
We also sell dried and cured olives and these provide amazing flavours that are surprisingly quite sweet and not salty – kids love them!
To read more about our products and to shop all your faves, click here.