Olives in Moroccan Cooking

In souks, there are entire stalls dedicated to olives – every flavour, size, colour and quality can be found there. This is a testament to the importance of olives as an essential ingredient in Moroccan cooking. In fact, different types of olives are used in many dishes, especially as appetizers in salads or as an essential ingredient in savoury tagines.

The colour of an olive depends on the moment in the ripening cycle that it was harvested. Green olives are the first to be picked and as such they have the firmest flesh. As they mature, they turn to purple and then black. To give a freshly-picked olive flavour, it is pickled or cured to make it bitter, sweet, tart, salty or lemony.

In Moroccan cooking, three types of olives are used: unripened green, mainly for salads, midway-ripe purple olives, used in chicken, lamb and fish tagines, and salt-cured black olives used in Moroccan salads. Unripened green olives are readily available, bottled in brine, but before using them you should boil them at least three times to draw out their bitterness. For midway-ripened purple olives, Italian Gaetas and Greek Kalamatas work well in Moroccan tagines. Finally, black olives, generally dry and salt-cured, are readily available and will work well to garnish your Moroccan salads.