Table olives are olives which are intended to be consumed as food, rather than being used for oil production.1
The olive fruit is enjoyed as part of many cuisines worldwide, primarily in Mediterranean regions, but also all over the world.2 Table olives have a unique texture, aroma and complexity of flavor, varying from bitter to sweet.3 They contain a wide range of bioactive compounds – oleuropein being the most predominant.
There are many olive varieties, each possessing unique qualities, that determine the flavor and properties of the fruit.
Fresh olives are very sharp and bitter in flavor, and as a result, they are not commonly consumed as a fresh fruit. There are several different processing methods which make olives more palatable. These processes remove the bitter taste from the fresh olive, which is mainly caused by oleuropein:2,4
Numerous factors can affect the composition of table olives, and affect the amount of phenolics that are found in the resultant cured fruit (e.g. olive cultivar, olive ripeness, processing method).
In general, the processing methods that are applied to make table olives palatable, reduces the levels of biophenols available in the olive.5 However, there is some research to show that certain olive cultivars and processing methods can maximise the resultant biophenols found in table olives.5,6
Interestingly, naturally fermented table olives also have some reported health benefits. A study showed that naturally fermented table olives from the Tras-os-Montes region (in Portugal) contained biophenols and also antimicrobial activity.7 Further research is needed in this area, to assess the role of naturally fermented olives on health.