What Makes a Great Green Olive?

Stuffed green olives can be tossed into a salad, used as a pizza topping, placed into a sandwich or dropped in a martini—you name it. With so many uses, it is easy to forget that green olives are also delicious by themselves. Serve them on a cheese plate, with antipasto or any of your favorite appetizers. Our chefs define a high-quality pimento-stuffed green olive as having an even olive green color with a bright red pimento. Olives should be whole, consistently sized and free of missing pimentos, blemishes or bruises on the skin. They should not appear improperly grown or handled prior to packaging. The olive should have a bold saltiness that isn’t so strong it burns or spikes. An olive will be in taste balance when the salt is followed by levels of acidic sourness just high enough to take the edge off the salt. There could also be a very mild sweetness from the pimento, but because the pimento is mainly an ornamental feature, sweetness is not necessary. Among the flavors, the olives should have mild buttery, grassy and earthy flavors that stand up to the saltiness. The natural oils should give olives a rich, meaty texture. They should be firm and fleshy as opposed to mushy, dry or grainy. There should be no chemical, sulfuric or sour notes (associated with over-ripened olives) that detract from the overall flavor.

Tasting terms

  • salt

    One of the basic tastes; tasting of or containing salt. Example: Potato chips, sea water and cured meats all have a strong salt component.

  • grassy

    A natural flavor or aroma suggesting grass. Example: Green tea, olive oil and some dairy products can have grassy notes.

  • texture

    A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunch texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.

  • grainy

    A texture consisting of grain particles; unsmooth. Example: Whole-grain bread, corn chips and brown rice can have a grainy texture.

  • sour

    One of the basic tastes; often considered sharp, tart and acidic. Example: Lemon juice, vinegar and fermented foods often have a strong sour component.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.