They’re a staple of trendy charcuterie boards and an essential in any kitchen as an oil – olives are everything, everywhere, all at once. While dozens of varieties are enjoyed in the United States today, one specific olive has captured the hearts and taste buds of food enthusiasts – the Castelvetrano olive. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind its growing popularity, its origins, and the various ways it can be enjoyed.
A Growing Trend
Though olives have been gaining popularity since the Mediterranean diet craze of the late 1980s, they typically remain a hard to sell for many American consumers. Most imported varieties are pungent and briny, a far cry from the bland “pizza topping olives” shoppers are often used to. And yet, Castelvetrano olives seem to gain over even the staunchest olive-hater.
As an importer, we have witnessed a skyrocketing demand for Castelvetranos from food markets, online retailers, and restaurants. And if you don’t believe us, check out the graph above demonstrating a consistent increase in Google searches for these little green powerhouses in the past 7 years. Now, you might ask yourself, what’s so special about the Castelvetrano olive… don’t all olives taste the same? Well, it all starts with its origins.
Origins & Harvesting
Castelvetrano olives are grown outside the town of the same name in western Sicily, Italy. They are harvested from the Nocellara del Belice olive tree variety, which is unique to the region. The fact that these olives cannot be found anywhere else helped olive producers to receive a DOP status for their product. The olives are cultivated with care and traditional methods and enjoy one of the finest climates in the Mediterranean with hot days, cool evenings, and coastal breezes.
Like most green olives, they are harvested young when they reach peak flavor and a green color. The harvest usually takes place from late September through October. They then undergo a meticulous curing process, involving multiple rounds of processing in a fresh water and lye solution over a span of two weeks. This process serves two important purposes: It quickly removes the olives’ natural bitter compounds while maintaining their crispness and meaty texture. It also contributes to the development of a buttery, mild olive flavor, which has been key in conquering the palates of olive novices.
The Exceptional Taste of Castelvetrano Olives
What truly sets the Castelvetrano olive apart from its counterparts is its delightful taste. As mentioned before, its unique curing process paves the way for a remarkable flavor profile. Unlike other table olives, which often offer tart and pungent flavors, the Castelvetrano olive is characterized by a natural buttery and creamy flavor, complemented by a mild brininess. These olives also have a touch of natural sweetness to add to their tender and crisp texture. In a way, they appear to be the grown-up version of the black olives many enjoy as children. Moreover, they captivate the eye with a striking green hue and meaty flesh. Years ago, unscrupulous olive growers used to dye their olives to guarantee a neon-green color. Thankfully, the producers we work with respect the natural color of the olive.
A Culinary Gamechanger
Its easygoing flavor is not the only reason for its growing popularity, this olive happens to be very versatile. Lately, it’s been stealing the show at the bar, enhancing dirty martinis, and gracing charcuterie boards alongside dry-cured salami and Italian cheeses.
Nevertheless, the Castelvetrano olive is also exceptional as an ingredient in cooked dishes. Its meaty texture makes it perfect for pasta sauces, braised meats, and stuffing. Or you could use it to add a burst of flavor and color to a leafy salad.
Ultimately, the rise of Castelvetrano olives as a culinary trend is no surprise, given their appealing flavor caters to a wide range of palates. We look forward to seeing them become more widely enjoyed and loved, just like we do. Check out our selection below!