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Last updated: July 26, 2021
In this article, I am going to discuss the delicious Castelvetrano olive, its nutritional benefits, and how I try to incorporate it in my daily food intake.
With their somewhat mild flavors, Castelvetrano olives are one of the more popular type of olives. As I recently wrote about Kalamata olives, let’s now have a closer look at their green counterparts from Sicily.
What Are Castelvetrano Olives?
Olives are certainly not for everyone, but over the years I have learned to appreciate the flavors and nutritional benefits of the various types of olives that are available for consumption.
Popular in the Mediterranean diet, olives are a unique type of fruit. Unlike any other fruit, olives have a very high fat content and usually have a bitter taste, which is not exactly what one would expect from a fruit.
One of the tastiest olives you can get your hands on right now, in my humble opinion at least, are Castelvetrano olives.
A Town in Sicily
Native to a town in Sicily in southern Italy that goes by the same name, the Castelvetrano olive has a very recognizable green color and is surprisingly delicious to eat by itself. Although an acquired taste may come in handy!
They are also known as Belice Valley olives, or Nocellara del Belice, named after the Belice Valley in the western part of Sicily where the town of Castelvetrano is located.
Firm on the outside but smooth and soft on the inside, the round and medium-sized Castelvetrano olive is often served on cheese platters, in Italian antipasti dishes and in Mediterranean-style salads.
As tasty as they may be as a little fruit, the main reason Castelvetrano olives are cultivated is because of the production of olive oil.
The Processing of Castelvetrano Olives
As with any type of olives, Castelvetrano olives can’t really be eaten straight from the tree! When they are fresh, they generally taste very bitter and are almost inedible.
The processing of olives is necessary to make them edible and taste good, either as a snack or as an ingredient in a salad or other type of meal.
What’s good though is that olives still retain a good portion of their healthy oils and polyphenols (see further below) after all that processing.
After harvesting Castelvetrano olives, they are typically washed in lye to help get rid of their bitter taste. While the use of lye may sound a bit scary, this is considered to be perfectly safe.
The olives are then thoroughly washed with water several times to remove the lye. Once washed, the olives are usually packed in light brine in a sealed jar to be sold to the end-consumer.
The brine curing process is a pretty standard food processing method, not just for olives, also for other foods such as meat and fish.
How to Eat Castelvetrano Olives?
Castelvetrano olives are popular because of their mild and somewhat sweet taste, compared to other olive types.
You can therefore easily eat them as a standalone snack, although this may require a bit of getting used to. They are quite big, so two or three Castelvetrano olives in one go works really well.
Otherwise, olives are a great addition to cheese and meat platters, ideally with a glass of white wine to enhance the Mediterranean experience.
You can also easily add Castelvetrano olives to green and citrus salads, or add tiny bits as an ingredient in an authentic pasta sauce.
Beware of Counterfeits
The usually fresh, green color and mild flavors of Castelvetrano olives make them a very popular type of olive.
Unfortunately, as such, you may occasionally come across fake Castelvetrano olives. And the best way to identify imposters is by having a closer look at their color.
The fake ones are often just a little bit too bright or shiny, while the real ones have a more natural, somewhat pale green color.
Nutritional Profile and Benefits
Olives are a unique fruit. They aren’t particularly high in vitamins and minerals, but they do contain a good amount of healthy fats.
Below is a more detailed overview of the nutritional profile of organic Castelvetrano olives. As you can see, it’s not so much the vitamin and mineral content that is impressive, but their (healthy) fat content is. They are also low in protein content and carbohydrates.
Also take note of the relatively high sodium content, which is caused by the brine, a saltwater solution, that is used to preserve the olives.
Sodium is not a bad nutrient though. It is in fact an essential nutrient that is crucial for our health, it’s just that we should consume it in moderation, because too much sodium can result in unwanted health issues.
|Castelvetrano Olives Nutritional Profile (100 grams)|
|Fat||23.3 g (5% DV)|
|– Saturated||3.3 g (3% DV)|
|Carbohydrates||6.7 g (0% DV)|
|Dietary fiber||6.7 g (4% DV)|
|Sodium||867 mg (5% DV)|
|Protein||0 g||Calcium||2% DV|
|Vitamin A||2% DV|
|Source: Nutrition Data List|
Olives generally have high levels of polyphenol, which is one of the reasons they are considered a health food in the Mediterranean diet.
Polyphenols are micronutrients or chemicals with antioxidant activity. They occur naturally in plants, vegetables and fruits, and in products manufactured from these fruits.
It is commonly understood that dietary polyphenols play an important role in human health and disease, which various studies have shown.
While the taste of olives certainly may not be for everyone, they are so unique in different ways that I do recommend you try to add them to your diet.
If you find it difficult to eat olives because of their bitter taste, then perhaps Castelvetrano olives may be a good option as they have a much more tolerable, almost sweet taste.
Combined with a bit of salami, cottage cheese or goat cheese, Castelvetrano olives work really well as a healthy afternoon snack.
So go ahead, try them out, and let me know what you think!