Olives are graded into sizes based on either diameter (American standards) or number per kilo or pound (international standards). There are more than 15 grades, from Sub Petite (181 to 220s olive per pound) to Super Mammoth (41-45 olives per pound). In-between are Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, Jumbo, Extra Jumbo, Giant, Colossal, Super Colossal, Mammoth and other designations that will puzzle olive buyers until labeling includes the number of olives per pound so consumers know the difference among Extra Jumbo, Giant, Colossal, Mammoth, etc.

Traditionally cured olives, such as those found at most olive bars, offer a host of health benefits. For starters, they’re rich in iron, vitamin E and copper, and are an excellent source of fiber. But what about all the fat? It’s true that olives do have some fat, but it’s the incredibly healthy monounsaturated variety.

Monounsaturated fats have been found to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. However, olives contain a triple whammy for your health that works in synergy to provide extreme benefits. Along with monounsaturated fats, olives are rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant that neutralizes damaging free radicals, along with polyphenols and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. It is the combination of these three health-boosting compounds that make olives: Have a protective effect on cells that can lower the risk of damage and inflammation, help reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, help prevent heart disease, help prevent colon cancer, help prevent the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in women going though menopause. When choosing olives for their health benefits (and flavor) always opt for those that have been traditionally cured (as opposed to lye-processed). No matter what the variety, they’re sure to add a burst of flavor and nutrition to any dish.

Manzanillo

“Manzanillo” or “Manzanilla”, a large, rounded-oval fruit, with purple-green skin, originated in Dos Hermanas, Seville, in Southern Spain. Known for a rich taste and thick pulp, it is a prolific bearer, grown around the world.

Frantoio

“Frantoio” and “Leccino” olives are the principal raw material for Italian olive oils from Tuscany. Leccino has a mild sweet flavor, while Frantoio is fruity with a stronger aftertaste. Due to their highly valued flavor, these cultivars are now grown in other countries.

Arbequina

“Arbequina” is a small, brown olive grown in Catalonia, Spain, good for eating and for oil.

Kalamata

“Kalamata”, a large, black olive with a smooth and meatlike taste, is named after the city of Kalamata, Greece, and is used as a table olive. These olives are usually preserved in wine, vinegar or olive oil.

Picholine

“Picholine” or “pecholine” is grown in the south of France. It is green, medium size, and elongated. The flavor is mild and nutty and slightly salty.

Picual

“Picual”, from southern Spain, is the most widely cultivated olive in Spain, comprising about 50% of Spain’s olive production and around 20% of world olive production. It has a strong but sweet flavor, and is widely used in Spain as a table olive. Moreover, its oil has some of the best chemical properties found in olive oil, being the richest in oleic acid and vitamin E.

Lucques

“Lucques” is found in the south of France. They are green, large, and elongated. The stone has an arcuated (bow) shape. Their flavor is mild and nutty.

Barnea

“Barnea” is a modern dual-purpose cultivar bred in Israel to be disease-resistant and to produce a generous crop. The oil has a strong flavor with a hint of green leaf. Barnea is widely grown in Israel and in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.

Mission

“Mission” originated on the California Missions and is now grown throughout the state. They are black and generally used for table consumption.

Liguria

“Liguria” is an elliptical-shaped, small blackish-brown olive that is native to Liguria Italy. It is brine-cured and provides a somewhat salty flavor with a nutty almond aftertaste. It is a good complement to add as a food topping or a relish.

Lugano

“Lugano” olive is a medium size brownish-black olive grown in Italy that has a long rounded shape and meat with a firm texture. It is brine-cured and provides a delicately rich, salty flavor. The Lugano olive is most often used as a hors d’oeuvre or as a complement to salads and pasta.

Nicoises

“Nicoises” hails from the Provence region of France (but also is grown in Italy and Morocco). This small, oval olive ranges in color from purple-brown to brown-black. Niçoises olives are cured in brine and packed in olive oil. Good specimens have a rich, nutty, mellow flavor and traditionally used in salads.

Pendolino

“Pendolino” olives are the most commonly found in the Tuscan region of Italy. The Pendolino tree is often used as a pollenizer in large groves. The olive is mild with a delicate flavor and pleasant buttery taste and makes a great small green and black table olive.

Castelvetrano

“Castelvetrano” is a large oval shaped black or green olive native to Italy, more specifically from the Adriatic coast of Southern Italy. It is a brine-cured olive that generally provides a softer delicately sweet flavor. The black variety has softer meat than the green. Overall, they are mild and sweet with a very dense “meaty” flesh. They are excellent for snacking with bread or with drinks.

Spanish Queen

“Spanish Queen” olives are large, plump and fleshy and are grown in the Seville province of Andalusia. These plum, fleshy fruits are available in several sizes and are large. Consists of a pit. Spanish Pitted Queens are an unstuffed large olive with the pit removed, suitable for occasions where no stuffing is desired or where an alternate stuffing can be added (like almonds, onions, garlic, cheese, etc.).