Olive Varieties


It has been estimated that there are around 600 Varieties of olives in the world, although there is some doubt as to their classification and description. The varieties have been differrentiated on the basis of the characteristics of the trees and their leaves, in particular the fruit and the stone. It is acknowledged that the features and the produce of a variety are influenced by the climate and territory of the area where they are cultivated. From this perspective, the characteristics of the stone are more sound. In any case, each variety is made up of many different individual olives, and it is very common for differences to be observed between olives of the same variety. This adds to the confusion surrounding the classification of olives. It has been suggested that basic distinctions between the varieties could be identified through the methods by which they are processed, although this has not yet completely solved the problem.
In Greece the problem is exacerbated by the various local names that are given to each variety. The same name can be used for several different varieties, whilst one variety can be grown under different names in different regions. It is believed that around 40 different varieties are grown in Greece today,

Which can be classified as:
-Table or edible olives
-Oil-producing olives
-double, or mixed, usage.

For table olives, the fruit must be large, the ratio between flesh and stone be as high as possible, the oil content low, the skin fine, whilst the flesh should be solid and come away from the stone easily. A high sugar content is an asset, helping to preserve the olive. Oil-producing olives should have a higher oil content, be as large as possible, and the quality of the oil (aroma, taste, etc.) be satisfactory. Below we give a short presentation of the best olive varieties grown in Greece, whilst the table indicates other names by which they are known and the main regions in which they are grown.

The Most Important Olive Varieties In Greece
Other Names
Main Regions

Table Olives
Conservolea Amfissis, Artas, Violiotiki, Hondrolia Halkidikes Central and W.
Greece, Halkidike
Kalamata Kalamatiani, Aetonychia, Korakolia Peloponnese, Crete, W. Greece
Oil-Producing Olives
  Koroneiki Lianolia, Psilolia,
Ladolia, Kritikia
Crete, Lonian Islands
  Lianolia Kerkyras(Corfu) Souvlolia, Korfolia, Prevezana, Dafnofylli Corfu, Paxi, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, Epirus
  Koutsourelia Patrini, Patrinia,
Lianolia, Ladolia
  Mastoedes Tsounati, Matsolia, Mouratolia Peloponnese, Crete
Double Use
Megareitiki Perachoritiki, Vovoditiki,
Hondrolia Aigians
Attica, Boeotia,
Kolovi Mytilinia, Valanolia Lesbos, Chios
Kothreiki Manaki, Manakolia, Korinthiaki Delphi, Amfissa,
Troezen, Kynouria
Thrubolea Thasitiki, Hondrolia Evoias Aegean Islands, Attica, Euboea

Table Varieties

This is the most common table olive, especially the green variety. This is a very productive variety when cultivated on good soil and irrigated, with a relatively good tolerance to the cold. It ripens relatively early (November), and there is much variation, with many different local names (Amfissis, Artas, Violiotiki, etc.). The Hondrolia Halkidikes is believed to belong to this variety. The Conservolea tree grows to a great height, with long, average-size leaves that have a distinctive tip at the end, with a downward bend. The fruit is large, oval, with a dark, chewy flesh that comes away from the stone easily. The fruit weighs 5.5 - 8.0 grams. It is harvested when green to produce the green table olive or, more rarely, when black for black olives.

Kalamata or Kalamon
This is the best variety for the production of select (seasoned in brine) table olives. It requires moisture, is of average but stable productivity, and the fruit ripens fairly early (late November-December). It is characterised by a tree of average height with broad, deep green leaves. The fruit is elongated with a narrow stone that comes away from the flesh easily. The fruit weighs 5-6 grams, has a flesh: stone ratio of 8-10 to 1, and an oil content of around 20%.

Oil-Producing Varieties

This is the leading Greek oil-producing variety, with a great productivity and excellent quality oil. It is adaptable to dry and moist regions, with a yield of 30-100 kilograms of fruit per tree, depending on the conditions. It has a very high yield in adverse conditions, whilst with irrigation it yields less. This variety ripens early (beginning in early October) with few demands during the winter cold for bearing fruit. It is characterised by its small leaves and large fruit. The fruit is spherical in shape with one curved side. It weighs around 1 gram and has dimensions of 12-15 x 7-9 mm. It has an oil content of 15-27%, which is considered very good. The stone has the same shape as the fruit, and also has a curve on one side, ending in a peaked tip. The flesh: stone ratio is 5 to 1.

Lianolia Kerkyras
Another important oil producing variety, producing excellent quality oil. It flourishes even on barren, stony ground although has greater demand for moisture (being cultivated primarily in areas with a large rainfall). This variety hasa lively vegetation and the trees can be very large. It is a late-ripening variety and its fruits are harvested late, after the first spring months. This late ripening encourages a high yield. The large leaves that fold over upwards are characteristic of this variety, whilst the fruit is small, elongated, with a slight tip at the top. It weighs 1.1 - 1.8 grams, with dimensions of 18 x 7 mm and an oil content of around 20%. The stone is relatively large, elongated, with a tip at both ends. The flesh: stone ratio is 3-4 to 1.

This variety has an average productivity that prefers rich or average composition soil. It does not grow well at great heights. The fruit is rich with a good quality oil, ripening relatively early (from the end of October). The tree is of average size with short shoots. The leaves are small. The fruit is round and ends in a small, lightly curved tip. The stone is relatively small with a tip at both ends. It weighs around 1.2 grams, with dimensions of 16.5 x 10 mm and an oil content of around 24-30%.

This variety is spherical in shape, (mastoedes means breast shaped) then, with an average to low yield with a demand for good soil (deep, lime content). It blossoms late and can be cultivated at great heights (up to 1,000 m). This variety ripens late (late December - early January). The leaves are of average size with a prominent central fibre on the upper surface ending in a pronounced tip. The fruit is of average size (2-2.8 grams), with the shape of a lemon and a large tip. The flesh: stone ratio is 6-8 to 1, and the oil content 20-30%.

Double Use Varieties

This variety has a low demand for moisture and can be cultivated in dry areas (Attica) and also a low demand during winter cold for blossoming. Its productivity is considered to be average and it is not high-yielding, unless it is well tended. It ripens relatively early (November - December). It has large leaves (10 x 75 mm) which end in a pronounced tip. The fruit varies. The typical shape is conical, with a narrower base and a peak at the tip. The fruit has an average weight of 4.2 grams, and the flesh: stone ratio is 6.5-7.5 to 1. The fruit is double use, for olive oil and various average-quality table olives (mainly tsakistes).

This is the dominant variety in Lesbos. It has average demands for soil and tending, and in favourable conditions it can reach high yields. It is considered to be one of the best oil-producing varieties, both in terms of productivity and quality. This variety ripens late (full ripening in February-March), although harvesting starts early (November). The leaves are large, tough and relatively broad. The fruit is characterised by the absence of a teat or tip and it has an oval or spherical shape. It is, however, usually narrower at the base and broader at the top (it looks like an oak seed). The fruit has a weight of 3-4.5 grams, oil content of 25-30% and a flesh: stone ratio of 2.5-5 to 1.

A variety tolerant to dry conditions, cold and strong winds, flourishing to a height of up to 750 metres. Its yield is considered to be average, with average soil and tending demands. The fruit is spherical without a teat, weighing 4-4.5 grams. The flesh: stone ratio is 3.5-7 to 1 and the oil content around 25%. It is double use and a significant portion of the annual yield is used in the processing of table olives for the production of large or average-size salted black olives, which are of excellent quality, delicious and with a good aroma.

Produces an average-size fruit, weighing 2.5-5 grams, with a flesh stone ratio of 5-7 to 1. It is double use with an oil content of up to 30%. The edible olives ripen on the tree, and are known as thrubes. The fruit requires high moistures and a relatively high temperature in the autumn, whilst the action of fungi leads to natural fermentation, meaning that the olives lose their bitter taste whilst still on the tree. Once they have dropped naturally to the floor, they are harvested, cleaned and preserved in brine.