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Is an Olive a Fruit or a Vegetable? The Answer Might Surprise You

is an olive a fruit or a vegetable
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Tama66

Olives are delicious Mediterranean snacks, but is an olive a fruit or a vegetable? Just because we love olives on a pizza doesn’t make them vegetables…does it?

Many fruits are mistaken for vegetables, and olives are no different. So if you’re wondering if an olive is a fruit or a vegetable: olives are fruits.

Olives begin as green fruits and change color as they ripen. Light green olives are the youngest and the most bitter — we’ll discuss why some are bitter, and whether you can eat them straight from the tree. The olives then progress to dark purple, brown, and finally black. Often the darker-colored olives are softer and have separated more from the olive pit.

Olives grow on olive trees, blossoming from the flowers. This is why they are classified as fruit. Fruit comes from the ovary of a plant, which is found in the bulb of the flower. Olives also contain seeds, another thing that classifies them as fruit.


Is an Olive a Fruit or a Vegetable?

Olives are fruits from the olive tree.
Olives are fruits from the olive tree. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / mac231)

Olives are fruits, and there are actually many health and wellness benefits for olives. They are packed with antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. A staple part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years, olives are popular worldwide. They have a wide variety of uses: they are eaten as snacks, used to make dips and sauces, pressed into oil, and added to many recipes, such as Dominican spaghetti.

Olives are not a vegetable and aren’t the only surprise fruit. Other fruits often mistaken for vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, pumpkins and eggplants. In some cases, they are only considered fruits from a botanist’s perspective and are more generally considered to be vegetables.

Can You Eat Olives Fresh From Trees?

Olives are fruits, not vegetables, and taste great cooked.
Olives are fruits, not vegetables, and taste great cooked. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels)

While olives are versatile and tasty, you should not eat them straight from the tree. You could try, but likely you’ll not find the taste or texture palatable. Olives straight from the tree are incredibly bitter. This is due to them containing oleuropein and phenolic compounds which are removed or reduced in the treatment process to make them taste better. These compounds are naturally occurring and likely evolved to protect the plant from insects and other predators.

After harvest, olives are cured using brine, dry salt, water, or lye treatments. Although olives are fruits and not vegetables, they are different from other common fruits in that they are almost exclusively eaten after treatment.

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