Whether they're stuffed with blue cheese, soaking in liquor, or resting atop a greasy pile of nachos, olives enhance any meal (or drink, for that matter). It's no secret that olives come in two colors, black and green. But, how much do you really know about these salty snacks and what these colors mean? That's where I come in. I decided to research the meaning behind black vs green olives to put to rest any burning questions you might have. As it turns out, olives are pretty complex. 

The History of Olives

Before we dive head first into olives and the colors involved, let's back up. Originating from Asia, olives are a whopping 6,000 years old. I guess everyone dug these bad boys, because they quickly became a staple in the Mediterranean, especially with the Greeks. 

Eventually, olives and their precious oil became intertwined with many Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions. This brought olives to homes and communities around the world, which is partly why olives are so popular today. 

Black vs Green Olives

After spending an alarming amount of time researching olives and the meanings of their colors, I've reached a conclusion: it's all about the timing. 

The color of an olive (green or black) is based on when an olive is picked and preserved. Green olives are unripe, while black olives (you guessed it) are ripened before being harvested. Let's not forget about preserving methods, because that also plays a small part in these two colors.

Green olives are typically soaked in lye (aka a chemical solution), then fermented in brine. Black olives, similar to green ones, are usually soaked in lye and then cured in brine to reduce bitterness. The longer the olive is soaking in solution, the less bitter it becomes. 

Talking About the Taste. 

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Caroline Ingalls

Let's recap: Green olives are unripe as they're being picked, while black olives are ripened before they're picked. I know what you're thinking at this point—does this impact the taste?

When it comes to taste, there is a difference between the two. Generally, green olives are more bitter compared to black olives. Black olives usually contain more oil and less salt than green olives. However, that is usually due to difference in preparation and packing.

#SpoonTip: If you're an amateur olive-eater and want something mild, try oxidized black olives. 

Is One Nutritionally Better Than the Other?

If you're a health nut looking for the most nutritional olive, don't waste your time. There are no major differences between the two colors. Olives, as a whole, contain healthy fats and minerals, including copper and iron. Bonus: These guys are rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants.

There you have it. The color of an olive is dependent on when it was picked and how it was preserved. Green or black, olives are an ingredient all in their own right. They prove perfect in a variety of dishes, drinks and various cheese boards. Better yet, olives can stand on their own as a piece of snacking perfection.