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Are Olives Fermented ? Yes, And Here’s Why

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If you’re in love with olives, then you know they’re deliciously salty and sour, with a hint of bitterness. Olives may remind you of pickles in that regard, or sauerkraut, or even capers. Why is that ?

Are olives fermented food ? And if yes, are there any extra precautions you need to take ? Or can you just eat them as usual ? Let’s find out.

olive fermented

Are olives fermented ?

Yes, olives are fermented food, just like pickles. They’re soaked in a lye solution to draw out bitterness, and then brined and left to ferment for several days or weeks.

This process softens the olive flesh, making it easier to eat and also removes some of the polyphenols that could cause more bitterness. So yes, the olives you’re eating right now are a fermented food, and come with all the perks and drawbacks of such foods.

Are store bought olives fermented ?

Yes, all store bought olives are fermented. They need to be fermented, otherwise they wouldn’t be edible. This includes vacuum-packed olives, canned lives, jarred olives, even olive paste.

You may be wondering why a jar of olives doesn’t fizz, like kombucha or some sauerkraut. The main reason is that they’re fermented for less time than other foods or drinks. They also don’t get a starter culture, lives only use the bacteria already available on their surface. You’ve definitely heard of it, it’s the Lactobacillus also present in yogurt.

Read also: Why Are Olives So Salty ? 

Are all green olives fermented ?

Yes, green olives and black olives and kalamata and really any color olive is fermented. The deal with the darker ones is that they contain less polyphenols, as they break down as the fruit matures.

olive color

Are olives probiotic ?

Yes, olives end up being probiotic ! Due to their fermentation process, olives serve largely the same role as pickles or kombucha. They provide gut-friendly bacteria, but in a smaller amount than foods that were fermented for longer.

If you’re aiming to eat olives for their probiotic boost, you’re better off trying pickles or sauerkraut. Or kombucha, if you’re fine with it. If you’re not vegan then you could also try kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink, a sort of kombucha made out of milk.

Why olives are fermented in the first place

Alright, now let’s talk a little about why olives have to be fermented in the first place. So you know how fresh, green, raw olives are incredibly bitter ? No ? Well, now you do.

Fresh olives contain oleuropein, a compound that is naturally present in olives and it’s so bitter you can’t eat a single olive. Aside from that. olives have tannins, just like tea leaves. Just that those tannins break down and the olive is less bitter as it ages, and there are some olives that are allowed to shrivel in the sun and fall off the tree ! Yes, they’re good to eat. Not all olives though, just a few cultivars, like the throubes cultivar native to Thassos.

So, for pretty much every other olive, a fermentation process is needed. Most of the time it’s all that’s used, but other times the olives are first treated with lye. The lye works way better at drawing out bitterness than brine.

The olives are then rinsed, and put in a brine to ferment for a few weeks. Most olives are not treated with lye, and this makes the fermentation process much longer.

Fermentation, like lye, draws out bitterness. Only it works much, much slower.

Olives end up as a salty snack

The end result is a salty olive, with just a bit of bitterness and tang to make it delicious. If you’re looking to reduce sodium then you can always rinse the olives in cold water. It won’t remove all the salt, just the outer coating and that should be enough.

If you need more, then you can soak the olives in cold water for several hours and check on them every now and then. Keep in mind that you’ll lose some of the flavor as well.

Read Also: Why Is Olive Oil Virgin ? 

Is it okay to eat olives everyday ?

Yes, you can eat olives every day, despite the salt and probiotic content. As with anything, you need to draw a line and keep yourself accountable.

A jar of olives a day is too much, even half a jar is too much if you eat them every single day of the year. We understand that cutting back on them may be difficult, but if you think you should and your doctor also recommends it, then try and eat less.

Something like a couple of tablespoons per adult, per day should be enough.

Now, if your rarely every eat olives – like at Christmas and maybe your birthday – then don’t feel too guilty you ate a whole jar by yourself. The problem lies in consistency, not random bursts of olive binging.

So there you have it. Olives are fermented foods, and can help your gut function properly. A happy, healthy gut is really important, as it can completely ruin your mood when it’s, um, not happy. So give olives a try, and pair them with whatever snack you love best.

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