Simple Food Questions: What is the Difference Between Green and Black Olives?

The Main Difference Between Green and Black Olives

What is the difference between green and black olives? Some may think that they are two different species of olives that come from two completely different trees. Others may be sure that they are merely prepared differently. In truth, green and black olives come from the same tree and may be prepared in the same way. The main difference between them is the time in which they are harvested. When olives are harvested before they ripen, they are green, hard, and slightly bitter. Olives that are harvested after they ripen are black, soft, and less bitter than their green counterparts.

Differences in Usage

Black and green olives are used in entirely different contexts. Chefs may use green olives as a garnish, or to give a slightly bitter taste to a dish. In general, green olives are less likely to be cooked or baked with. Black olives, on the other hand, star in many cooked and baked dishes. Chefs may add them to meat or poultry, toss them into a salad, or use them to top pizza or calzones.

Of course, people eat both types as snacks, although green olives are probably more prevalently snacked on. They also may substitute one type of olive for the other type in a given recipe. Doing so, however, will probably change the taste (and possibly the texture) of the finished product.

Differences in Nutrition

Nutritionally, there are no differences between green and black olives, and both are healthy additions to a well-balanced diet. Both are rich in monosatured fat, the same fat that is found in olive oil – not coincidentally. Although many people try to avoid fats, monosatured fat is actually "healthy fat" and should be included in most people’s diets. Both green and black olives also contain plenty of vitamin E, as well as anti-inflammatory polyphenols and flavonoids.

One negative aspect to green and black olives is the fact that cured olives contain high amounts of sodium. The amount of sodium depends on the type of curation that the olive has undergone. Olives can be packed in salt, soaked in oil or water, brined, or pickled, and each of these curation processes can add a different amount of sodium to the finished product. People with high blood pressure or other salt-related problems should probably avoid eating cured olives.

So what is the difference between green and black olives? Nothing more than the fact that green olives are harvested before they begin the ripening process and black olives are harvested after the ripening process finishes. And of course, the fact that their tastes, textures, and appearances are entirely different, which leads to different usages.

Reference Used

The following reference was used in writing this article.

Mark’s Daily Apple: