The number of industries involved stands at 412, distributed across 11 Autonomous Communities which, with the exception of La Rioja and the Basque Country, coincide with those producing oil. Of these Communities, Andalusia and one of its provinces in particular, Seville, being the greatest exponents of this industry in terms of both number (55% and 35%, respectively) and production levels (79% and 58%).
Main varieties of Spanish table olive:
MANZANILLA: This table olive is the variety most widely sold
internationally, thanks to its quality and productivity. It is grown in the province of Seville, particularly in the area around the provincial capital. The olives yielded are used primarily for sale as green olives in brine. E.g. they are known as 'Sevillian olives' within Spain and as 'Spanish olives' abroad.
GORDAL: This variety is rooted in the province of Seville both in terms of its origin and its production. It bears a large fruit (100/120 olives per kilo) that is heart-shaped and largely symmetrical. It is best suited for use as a table olive.
HOJIBLANCA: Dominant variety in Malaga and Cordoba (also found in Seville and Granada), suitable both for use as a table olive and for oil, both in its green and black stages of ripeness. It is a late-ripening fruit. It is very popular in the form of black olives in brine.
CACEREÑA or Manzanilla Cacereña, because of its widespread presence in the province of Caceres. It is a dual purpose variety, particularly well-received in both green and black form as a table olive for the quality of its flesh. The olives are spherical, although asymmetrical. Their main use is as seasoned black olives.
CARRASQUEÑA: This variety is the result of grafting the Manzanilla with the Morisca variety. Light green in colour, the fruits are destined for use as table olives for their organoleptic qualities. The highest yields are produced in the province of Badajoz.
OTHER VARIETIES: Morona, Lechín, Aloreña, Pico Limón, Cuquillo, Okal, etc.
Types of table olive
The quality standard adopted by the International Olive Council in 1980 classifies table olives into the following types: Green olives, olives turning colour, black olives and darkened.
Green olives: Fruits harvested during the ripening period, prior to colouring and when then have reached normal size. These olives are firm, healthy and can withstand a slight pressure between the fingers and have no markings other than their natural pigmentation. The colour of the fruit may vary from green to straw yellow.
Olives turning colour: : Fruits of a rose to wine rose or chestnut brown colour, harvested before the stage of complete ripeness is attained and, submitted or not to alkaline treatments, are ready for consumption.
Black olives: : Fruits harvested when fully ripe or slightly before, with colours ranging from reddish black to violet black, deep violet, greenish black and deep chestnut being acceptable, and varying according to the production area and time of harvest.
Darkened by oxidation (to be sold as black olives) : Green olives or olives turning colour darkened by oxidation and whose bitterness has been diluted via an alkaline treatment, subsequently packaged in brine and subjected to heat sterilisation.
Presentation and marketing of table olives
Table olives may be offered for trade or for final consumption under the following official denominations: Whole, stuffed, halved, quartered, segmented, sliced, pieces, torn, crushed, cut, perforated, alcaparrado, salad, place-packed, with stem, paste, marinated or seasoned olives.
Where brine-treated olives are destined for further processing, they are available in barrels (large-size industrial containers), and if they are offered directly to consumers, they are packaged in jars, tins or suitable bags.
This stage of the table olive sector includes not only the brine-treating industries, but also producers, packaging plants and operators.