Typical Mediterranean produce, black olives are the fruit of the olive tree harvested when fully ripe (December, January, February), unlike green olives, which are harvested before ripening (September, October, November). The flavor of black olives is stronger and they are higher in calories.
Black ripe olives are harvested between December and February, but they can be eaten throughout the year. They are easy to find, both marinated or in brine, in the deli section or canned goods section of supermarkets. Black olives don’t exist as a separate variety; while certain olive varieties do turn this color, many actually turn very dark purple. The deep black color of industrially processed black ripe olives is the result of adding ferrous gluconate, a food coloring.
Black ripe olives, like most olive varieties, cannot be eaten immediately after harvesting. They have to be prepared: Their bitterness has to be removed through a process, before the olives are washed and fermented, in brine (a salt solution) for example.
After preparation, black ripe olives can be eaten plain, marinated, or in brine as an appetizer. They can also be used to make tapenade or oil. Finally, they can be added to savory pastries, bread, fougasse, pizza, and to stewed chicken dishes.
Marinated or brined black ripe olives can be stored for several months in jars. Put them in a dry place away from light and heat.
Black ripe olives are high in iron and sodium, and much higher in calories than green olives, even more so when marinated in oil with herbs.
There are a number of well-known varieties of French olives acknowledged by a quality label, among which are the olives from the Vallée des Baux-de-Provence or Nyons olives, grown in the Drôme and Vaucluse regions, which have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.