While it’s all too easy to group olives into two distinct categories – black or white – most are surprised to learn that there are actually hundreds of varieties grown throughout the world. Similar to wine grapes, certain types of olives grow better in different climates, leading to a wide range of unique flavors and textures that can produce mouthwatering culinary possibilities.
Since covering even the most popular types of olives far exceeds the scope of this article, today, we’re going to be focusing on one variety in particular – Manzanilla olives.
What Are Manzanilla Olives?
Believe it or not, these tasty little morsels are actually the most common type of green olive found in supermarkets today. If you’ve ever purchased a jar of green olives packed into a glass jar with brine, chances are, you’ve sampled these olives before. Originating from Sevilla, Spain, Manzanilla olives have taken the world by storm, commonly found in everything from roasted chicken and Mediterranean style dishes to the iconic dirty martini.
Not only are Manzanilla olives the most popular type of green olive you’ll find, but they’re actually the most popular type of olive in the world. Largely due in part to its resilience and high yield, the ever increasing demand for Manzanilla olives has led them to also be grown in the sunny state of California.
Characterized by their light green appearance, Manzanilla olives are commonly pitted and stuffed with pimento (the classic red filling), garlic paste, or even almonds depending on where you get them from. These plump, meaty olives have a firm texture and diverse flavor profile that will take your taste buds through notes of briny deliciousness before evolving into something slightly bitter with a touch of nutty smokiness.
Because they can be so widely produced, Manzanilla olives serve as a great source for olive oil in addition to their whole fruit purposes. When not being used for olive oil, Manzanilla olives undergo an extensive process that prepares them for packaging.
Contrary to popular belief, you won’t have a pleasant experience if you just pluck an olive from its tree and bite into it. Instead, you’ll be greeted with a face-twisting bitterness as a result of the oleuropein content that gets removed during the curing process.
Once the Manzanilla olives have been deemed ripe enough to pick, the farmer will start by washing them off in a bath drawn with water and brine to preserve the freshness and remove any debris from the exterior.
After they’ve been thoroughly rinsed, they will again be submerged in a sea salt brine (varies depending on the producing company) for as long as three weeks to fully remove the naturally bitter taste and produce the succulent olives we’ve come to love.
From here, they’re then pitted, stuffed, and packaged in glass jars and filled with brine or olive oil for preservation until it’s time to enjoy them!
Health Benefits of Manzanilla Olives
Manzanilla olives are packed with powerful nutrients that offer several health benefits when incorporated as a staple in your diet.
1. High In Antioxidants
One of the most well-documented benefits of olive oil is their rich antioxidant profile which has been found to help lower the risk of developing a number of diseases. Vitamin E is one of the most important antioxidants found in olive oil, helping to protect your body against viruses and free radical damage, which has been largely associated with cancers and even heart disease.
On top of having a high concentration of Vitamin E, studies have also shown that consuming olives can significantly increase glutathione levels in the blood, one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants.
2. Abundance of Healthy Fats
As you may have already assumed, olive oil from Manzanilla olives is largely comprised of monounsaturated fats. Known as oleic acid, monounsaturated fats are believed to help fight chronic inflammation in the body.
The oil contained within Manzanilla olives is also believed to help reduce blood pressure, further contributing to heart health. In addition, the fat content of Manzanilla olives is packed with omega-3’s and 6’s, both of which are important for keeping your heart health in check.
3. Heart Health & Stroke Prevention
Scientists have long been interested in the Mediterranean diet due to the low number of heart disease cases in the region. After extensive research, scientists found that a diet rich in olive oil helps protect the body against heart disease in a variety of different ways (as covered above).
Similarly, scientists have also performed numerous studies on the link between strokes and olive oil consumption. Their research found that monounsaturated fat from olives is one of the leading factors in reducing the risk of stroke.
Manzanilla Olive Recipes
Bacon Olive Wraps
This recipe is the perfect choice when looking to impress guests with a simple yet tasty appetizer involving Manzanilla olives.
Ingredients: Bacon, Manzanilla olives, white bread
1. Cut the crust from the white bread and slice each piece into 3 equal strips.
2. Roll it around the olive, followed by half a strip of bacon before securing with a toothpick.
3. Place on a baking sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, making sure the bacon is crispy all around.
When you’re in the mood for a stunningly flavorful salad that can take on whatever form you please, the Manzanilla olive chopped salad never fails.
Ingredients: For this recipe, the only ingredients you need are those necessary to create your favorite salad.
Cooking: Whether that be an extravagant blue cheese salad or a simple spring mix with some grilled chicken, sprinkling in a few stuffed olives that have been chopped up can instantly elevate any salad to the next level of delicious.
Chicken Pesto & Pasta
Manzanilla olives work exceptionally well with pesto dishes, making chicken pesto the perfect candidate for these tasty little morsels.
Ingredients: For this recipe, you can use any chicken pesto recipe you find and simply add an extra step while making the sauce.
Cooking: As the pesto ingredients are cooking down in a large pot (commonly including garlic, parsley, olive oil, and rep pepper), sprinkle in a few Manzanilla olives and allow them to meld with the flavors for 3-4 minutes and wallah!