A Brief Guide to Greek Olives

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Olives are a cornerstone of Greek cuisine and one of the healthiest fruits (yes, it’s a fruit!) you can eat, being high in vitamin E and antioxidants. These little gems are also low in calories and help your skin stay smooth and soft. However, going in-depth into the different varieties of olives can be overwhelming, especially for a newcomer to Greece and its language. 

In the consumer market, olives are branded and categorized according to their colour (black, green, or in-between) and place of origin. In the realm of black olives, the most common are Kalamon, the classic, almond-shaped, dark brown Greek olives cultivated in the Peloponnese, especially the city of Kalamata. They are kept in oil and vinegar and have an intense, ever-so-slightly sour taste with fruity notes.

Another famous black variety are Amfissas, rounder olives produced in the rural town of Amfissa with a slightly salty, spicy flavour. If you favour low-salt olives, the throumbelies Amfissas variation are soft, wrinkled, and have a wonderfully fruity flavour. For more intense flavours, try Megaritikes, which have smoky notes, or throumbes thrassou and damaskinoelies (“prune-shaped olives”), which are wrinkled, tough and slightly bitter.

Meanwhile, in the land of green olives, the round Amfissas prasines are among the most common variety, with a fruity and spicy flavour. You may also find them tsakistes (when the flesh is slightly crushed), which are crunchier and with a pleasantly bitter, fresh flavour. Other common green varieties are Halkidikis, large olives produced on the island of Evia with a tough flesh and strong fruity flavour, and their twin, the Dolianitikes.

Where to Buy: You can find wonderful olives everywhere in Athens, from supermarkets to hipster delis to the laiki (farmer’s markets). You can find good olives at Pantopoleion Pandaisia (Agiou Ioannou 41; 2106017731), a hip deli market in Agia Paraskevi, and at Paradosiako Bakaliko (Proklou 31; 2107560055) in Pagrati, a traditional market loaded with many olive varieties. My own personal favorites are the unsalted Amfissa olives at greengrocer Froutoemboriki – Kerameidas Georgios I. (Agia Paraskevis 132; 2106002079) in Halandri.

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