Offer your guests a bite of abundance, peace, wisdom and purity. In other words, an olive. Olives are an ancient species—the tree had its origins some 20 to 40 million years ago—and have been eaten by humans for say, 6,000 years, give or take. It’s not surprising so much symbolism has become attached to them.

Part of almost every cocktail party menu, they can also provide a conversation starter. At such occasions, just Google “olive.” “Hey, did you know that olives were the source of the Minoans’ wealth?” you might ask casually. Or, “By the way, an olive tree in Croatia is 1,600 years old and still bears edible olives!” Okay, maybe it’s just best to chat about the weather. Know enough to put together an interesting selection. Most grocery stores feature an olive bar now, and naturally SLC’s gourmet store stars—Caputo’s Market & Deli and Liberty Heights Fresh—have great selections and knowledgeable sales people.

Kalamata olive

Kalamata 

Everybody’s favorite Greek olives, used in salads, cheeses and all kinds of cooked dishes. Usually preserved in red wine vinegar and olive oil, they have a beautiful purple skin. 

Arbequina

Arbequina

Little, rosy-brown olives, often found with stems attached, are highly aromatic. Mostly grown in Catalonia, Spain, also found in Aragon and Andalusia, as well as California, Argentina and Chile.

Lucques olive

Lucques

Lucques is a cultivar of olives grown primarily in Languedoc in France. It is primarily used as a green table olive with a bright, tart flavor.

Alfonso

Alfonso

Alfonso olives are considered Chilean, though they’re influenced by Peruvian culture. Huge, purple and brine-cured, then macerated in red wine. 

Tournante olive

Tournante

Dark olives simply cured for several months in sea salt brine for a purely fruity olive flavor. 

Royal Herculean olive

Royal Herculean 

Great big olives from Arcadia are unpasteurized so they retain more tannins than many other olives. 


This article was included in the current issue of Salt Lake magazine. Read more food stories here.