What color olives are used to make olive oil?

October 4, 2017


What color olives are used to make olive oil? The answer may surprise you.

All olives begin life green. From there they grow to a golden, yellowish hue, then reddish purple to almost black. In general, greener, less ripe- olives produce powerful olive oil, with higher antioxidant and polyphenol content and a stronger, more peppery taste.  Olives harvested when ripe will instead produce a milder, fruity tasting oil. Ripe olives also produce a higher yield than unripe olives and can be picked using mechanical harvesters which lowers the cost of production. Olive oil producers use their expertise to determine the right time to harvest their olives - balancing fruitiness and high yields with low acidity and peppery flavor. 

The color of the olive at time of harvest may impact the color of the olive oil. Chlorophyll from the olives carries through to the oil. However, the chlorophyll is usually reduced during filtration. The chlorophyll also reduces in color over time, especially in clear bottles. Thus, the color of the olive oil cannot be used as a reliable indicator of the color of the olives when harvested. The color of the olive oil also does not effect the taste of the oil. 

What about black olives?

Black olives are typically sold in cans. These olives were not ripe when picked. These olives were cured using natural brine and lye solutions, and then treated with oxygen and an iron compound. This process causes the olives to oxidize, turning them black. While these olives are delicious, they aren't used in olive oil. They are made for eating, not to be turned into oil.

Picture of olives on a tree Picture of canned, black olives.
Olive oils are made from this. Not this!


Posted in: About Olive Oil