There are many different kinds of olives, and it isn’t simply “green” and “black.”
Among these options, many people believe Castelvetrano olives are the best-tasting olive in the world.
These green Italian olives hail from the island of Sicily, and they have a unique, crunchy taste.
This article provides a complete guide to these tasty olives; their nutrition profile, health benefits, and how to use them in some delicious recipes.
What Are Castelvetrano Olives?
Castelvetrano olives are native to Valle del Belice, a small region on the island of Sicily, Italy.
However, due to their popularity, they now grow in several regions around the world.
The Castelvetrano tree requires dry, arid conditions to thrive, and we can find the olives growing in countries with this required climate, such as India and Pakistan.
Going by the Italian name of ‘Nocellara del Belice,’ this olive is much larger than typical olive varieties.
After the harvesting of the olives, they are cured in lye for several hours to remove the incredibly bitter taste that raw, fresh olives have.
Following the curing, they are thoroughly washed and then packed in brine ready to go out for sale.
Look below, and you will see a bowl of green olives; this is how Castelvetrano olives look.
As mentioned earlier, they do have a unique appearance compared to other olives, and they almost look like small mini apples.
Interestingly, Castelvetrano olives are also much greener in color than other olives (rather than being the standard pale ‘olive green’ color).
Taste and Texture
While most green olives have a soft and juicy texture, these are a little different.
On the outside, Castelvetrano olives have a crisp feel and a crunchy texture. The inner flesh is medium-soft, and it has a buttery feel reminiscent of an avocado.
Additionally, the flavor is very mild, and they do not have the bitterness that many green olives exhibit.
They are the polar opposite of pungent-tasting olives like kalamata olives.
Overall, they are very light and almost sweet-tasting, which makes them perfect for snacking on.
The table below shows the nutrition profile for Castelvetrano olives per 100 grams (1);
As shown, the olives are reasonably high in both calories and dietary fat, but they contain little protein and only a small amount of carbs as fiber.
The fat content is predominantly monounsaturated fat, followed by a smaller amount of saturated fat.
People praise olive oil for its healthy fat and polyphenol content, and all olives—Castelvetrano included—contain similar fatty acids and phenolic compounds.
Here is a quick summary of the primary health benefits that Castelvetrano olives provide.
1) Vitamin E
Similar to all olives, Castelvetrano olives are a good source of fat-soluble vitamin E.
Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant, and it plays a role in anti-inflammatory processes in the body.
Furthermore, studies suggest that sufficient intake of this vitamin may reduce the risk of various chronic diseases (2).
Also, food sources of vitamin E like olives do not pose the toxicity risk of vitamin E supplements, which can be harmful in high doses (3).
2) Rich in Phenolic Compounds
Castelvetrano olives are a rich source of phenolic compounds, otherwise known as polyphenols or—perhaps misleadingly—“antioxidants.”
One recent study specifically looked at the potential effects of Castelvetrano olives.
Although it was only a small study (n=25), levels of inflammatory cytokines “fell significantly” across the sample group after adding 12 Castelveltrano olives to their daily diet for 30 days.
The researchers admitted that although the results were promising, the results need replicating with a larger sample group (6).
The most significant polyphenol found in Castelveltrano olives is oleuropein, which researchers believe may have anti-inflammatory properties (7).
3) A Large Source of Healthy Fat
It is no longer the 1980’s, and there is no need to fear (most kinds of) naturally-occurring fat.
With a fat concentration of almost 25%, Castelveltrano olives provide a significant source of dietary fat.
The specific types of fat that they provide are also very healthy; mainly a mixture of monounsaturated and saturated fat.
However, their main fatty acid is the monounsaturated fat called oleic acid (8).
Oleic acid is one of the most well-researched fatty acids, and the research is generally very positive.
For instance, numerous studies have demonstrated that oleic acid may improve health by;
- Helping to reduce blood pressure (9)
- Improving immune function (10)
4) Potential Source of Probiotics
Recent research is showing that olives can provide a source of probiotics, and this is particularly the case when producers use traditional fermenting processes.
A recent study analyzed the potential probiotic contents of Castelveltrano olives, and they were found to contain a wide range of bacterial species (13).
Studies on probiotics are only in their infancy, and there is much that we need to find out.
Healthy and Delicious Recipes
Maybe you have a jar of Castelvetrano olives at home and you are wondering how to use them?
Since they have such a mild taste, these olives do not dominate with their flavor, and they can work well in various dishes.
Here are five great ways to use them.
1) Chicken Drumsticks in Olive and Lemon Butter Sauce
Chicken can be boring, and plain old chicken breast is one of the least exciting foods around.
However, it is an entirely different story if you take some delicious chicken drumsticks and cook them in a lemon-butter sauce.
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 8 chicken drumsticks
- 3 oz (85 g) Castelvetrano olives
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 small tomato
- A whole lemon
- 1 tsp mustard
- 2 sprigs coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- Black pepper to taste
- First of all, combine the butter, tomato, half of the lemon, mustard, salt, and pepper in the blender. Blend until you have a consistent liquid.
- Secondly, place the chicken drumsticks in the bottom of an oven dish and add the olives on top.
- Next, evenly pour the lemon-butter sauce over the drumsticks.
- After this, cut the remaining half lemon into slices and add to the oven fish.
- Cook in a pre-heated oven at 175°C (350°F) for 30-35 minutes, and check regularly.
- Serve in individual bowls when the chicken has cooked sufficiently.
2) Marinated Castelvetrano Olives
To use the olives as a tasty side dish (or just a snack), here is a recipe for marinating them.
- 5 oz (140 g) Castelvetrano olives
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
- 2 garlic cloves (mashed)
- 1 sprig of basil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
To make these marinated olives, all you have to do is combine the ingredients in a sealable jar with a lid.
Leave in the refrigerator for around 24 hours, and then they will be ready to serve.
This combination of ingredients works well because it gives the mild-tasting Castelvetrano olives a more powerful flavor, and combines sweet, sour and herbal flavors.
The recipe works particularly well as a side dish alongside some hot pork.
3) Stir-Fried Pork, Olives, and Garlic Cloves
Combining Castelveltrano olives with pork, this recipe offers a simple, tasty, and healthy dinner.
Ingredients (4 Servings)
- 2 lbs (900g) pork
- 3 oz (85 g) Castelvetrano Olives
- 30 garlic cloves
- 1 large onion
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sesame Oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- First of all, peel the garlic cloves and the onion. Slice the onion into small pieces but leave the garlic cloves in their whole form.
- Next, add the olive oil to the pan and lightly fry the pork, garlic, and onion for 5 minutes.
- After this time, the garlic and onions should have softened, and the pork should be starting to cook throughout. At this point, add the olives and then cook for a further 5 or 6 minutes until everything seems done.
- Add the teaspoon of sesame oil and mix in well.
- Now take off the heat, and enjoy!
4) Cheese and Castelvetrano Salad
Cheese and olives are an excellent pairing for a tasty side salad.
Ingredients (amounts to suit)
- 1 cup (150 g) Feta cheese
- 3 oz (85 g) Castelvetrano olives
- 4 cups leafy greens (to suit preference)
- 1 cup (120 g) Cucumber
- 1 large red onion
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Firstly, cut the cheese into small cubes.
- Next, slice the tomatoes, cucumber, and onion into bite-sized pieces.
- After doing this, add everything into a mixing bowl alongside the olives and leafy greens.
- Following this, put the balsamic vinegar and olive oil into the bowl and mix well to ensure even coverage.
5) Just Eat Them On Their Own
Well, this one isn’t a recipe… but Castelvetrano olives taste great, so they make a delicious snack on their own.
These green Sicilian olives offer numerous health benefits, they taste delicious, and they have some unique characteristics that set them apart from other olives.
Additionally, due to their mild flavor, they make an excellent addition to a wide range of different recipes.
The next time you are looking to try something new, you won’t go wrong with Castelvetrano olives.