See Olive Oil.

Table olives are sold loose, in their brine or in oil, in jars, pitted or whole, sliced, flavored in various ways, or stuffed.

Olive paste and tapenade come in a jar. 

Olives are selected depending on whether they will be used as table olives to snack on, or for cooking.

The Codex Alimentarius imposes strict quality criteria for their flesh, flavor, firmness, and ease of removing the flesh from the pit. Pasteurization is allowed.

Olives should have a pleasant smell, with no hint of fermentation. Olives releasing an unpleasant odor, or which are too soft or too wrinkled, must be discarded. 

Table olives can be stored at room temperature as long as the container is not open. Once open, they should be kept in the refrigerator.

Green olives

They are picked when they are sufficiently large (between 3 and 5 g) at the end of summer but before they are fully ripe. They are then treated in one of two ways:

  • Spanish or Sevillian style

The olives are immersed in a dilute lye solution (sodium hydroxide) to remove and convert oleuropein and sugars into organic acids that aid the fermentation process. They are then washed. The length of time these operations last and the number of times they are repeated depend on the quality of the olives. They are then put into casks, covered with brine, and left to ferment.

  • Picholine or American style

The bitterness of the olives is removed using the same process, but only for a few hours. They are then placed in a first brine solution for two days. They are drained and placed in a second brine solution with added citric acid.

Black olives

These are picked when ripe, during the winter. They are then sorted, washed, and placed directly in brine, which is enough to remove most of the bitterness as they are naturally less bitter than green olives.

They can also be treated with dry salt after being washed. This method is used in Greece and Morocco.

The brine solutions used to treat both green and black olives are sometimes flavored with spices, herbs, fennel, or pieces of orange or lemon, etc. The olives may also be cracked.

All Mediterranean countries produce green and black table olives of varying sizes.

Spain

The world's leading producer. The best-known varieties are the round and fleshy Manzanilla, the sweet and fruity Hojiblanca, which can be green or black, the Cacereña, which is similar to the Manzanilla but more delicate, and the Gordal/Sevillian, which is very large with green or purple skin.

Italy

The second largest producer in Europe. The most popular olives are the Leccino (also known as Leccio or Premice), and the Moraiolo, round black olives from Tuscany, the Ascolana del Piceno (PDO), a large, green-yellow olive sold preserved in brine or stuffed, the large green Peranzana from Puglia, the Grossa di Cerignola, whose flesh comes away easily from the pit, and the Taggiasche, which is produced in Liguria and has black, green or purple skin.

Greece

Third largest producer. There are many varieties of Greek olives, including the Kalamata (also known as Kalamon), the small black Koroneiki, the green and fleshy Amygdalolia, the Kinservolia, which can be green, blond or black, and the very large, green Halkidiki.

France

Black Nyons olives, black olives from the Les Baux de Provence valley, cracked green olives from the Les Baux de Provence valley, the Olive de Nice (small and black), and the Olive de Nîmes (green and juicy) are protected by AOC status. The Lucques olive, which is green and crescent-shaped, is grown in the Languedoc area.

In addition to those countries, and the olive-producing countries of North Africa, Egypt, Israel, Syria, and Turkey, table olives are produced wherever olive trees are cultivated: on the American continent, and in Australia and South Africa.