How to Judge Olives

Image by Timothy Newman


Should be firm but not woody or granular. Green olives should have firm, crisp flesh, ripe or black olives will have softer flesh due to the fruit being more mature than green olives, however it shouldn’t be soggy or flabby. The flesh should separate easily from the stone.


The skin of the fruit should be fine, smooth and not wrinkled, yet elastic and resistant to handling damage.


The level of salt governs the flavour of the olive and must be balanced with the bitterness and acidity.


Blemishes should be absent however some white spots on green olives are natural, others such as gas pockets or blistering are caused by processing, and organisms.


The olive should have an appealing fruit flavour, which for green olives often is a typical fermentation taste but retaining ‘olive’ character, and for black olives is a stronger olive flavour.
There should be no ‘off’ aromas such as rancidity or cheese.


Green olives should be bright green to straw green colour. Some dulling may occur after several months in brine. Lye treated green olives are very bright green. Olives turning colour should be pale pink, and black olives vary from dark pink to black or winey colour.


The olive shouldn’t be bitter to taste but some bitterness can be balanced by the amount of saltiness and olive flavour.

The above judging criteria and comments have been provided for the purpose of education and do not represent the views, opinions or position of judges, officials or the RA&HS. Any resemblance to actual persons, competitors, or exhibits living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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