It is no secret that Greek Olives have no rival in the olive world when it comes to flavor and quality. The hilly terrain that acts as a natural drainage system, combined with the perfect mild Mediterranean climate, and the sun shining almost 300 days a year, is what makes Greek olives so special. There are many table olive varietals in Greece the main ones being the KALAMATA olive (or Kalamon), the BLACK AMFISSA, the GREEN AMFISSA, both from the Conservolea variety, the HALKIDIKI green olive, the THASSOS dry cured olive, the NAFPLION olive, the DOLIANA olive and many more.
Traditionally, table olives in Greece are harvested by hand, one by one. This is to protect the sensitive skin of the fruits and their texture. Mechanical harvesting can cause some skin defects and result to inferior quality.
Olives in Greece are harvested once a year but in different time periods depending on the varietal and the stage of ripeness. The first stage is when the olives are green and the harvest takes place from mid-September to mid-October, and the second is when the olives have turned dark brown to black, the harvest for which starts in mid-November and goes through the end of December.
The quality criteria that characterize table olives are the same more or less in all growing regions. Good quality green olives are generally firm, almost crunchy, especially when they are whole (with pit). Their skin is smooth and even, with uniform color from pale to dark green. Their flavor is pleasantly fruity, somehow acidic, sometimes buttery (Halkidiki olives) and mildly salty. Black olives on the other hand are softer in texture since they are more mature. Their skin again is smooth and even, but their color may vary significantly even in the same batch without this being a quality problem though. Their flavor is more complexed, more mellow, and less pungent. The flavor of olive oil comes to mind when eating ripe natural black olives.
The defects on green olives are bruises, cuts, insect holes on the skin as well as various skin abnormalities. Color defect are less common. Flavor defects on green olives are the very soft texture, the very acidic or salty flavor, and of course any unpleasant odor or flavor. On black olives, bruises, spots, insect holes, cuts, excessive presence of stems and large scale discolorations on the same fruit, are all considered defects. From a tasting standpoint, the defects are extreme texture problems, lack of flavor, very salty, and again unpleasant odor or flavor.
Olive trees can be affected by many different parameters, the main one being the climatic conditions throughout the year. Olive trees need a relatively cold and wet winter (January through March), a mild and humid Spring for the blossoms to turn into small olives, a hot a dry Summer (July through September), and finally a wet and mild Fall (October-November) so they get enough rain water and grow in size right before harvest. The climate of Eastern Mediterranean is considered ideal for the cultivation of olive trees, and the quality of the fruits in this part of the world is superior to that in other regions that also grow olive trees. A suitable climate in conjunction with the appropriate soil determines to a large degree the quality of the final product. The size of a crop depends mainly on the climatic conditions that prevailed in a specific year, as well as the diseases and insect presence in a specific region.
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