Is An Olive A Fruit Or Vegetable? (how it’s classified)

Olive is best classified as a fruit, but it also has veggie qualities.

Is an olive a fruit?:

Olives are technically fruits, because they contain a seed and grow from the flower of a plant. However, they are often classified as vegetables because of their savory taste and culinary uses.

Olives are good for you and are often used in salads, sandwiches, and other savory dishes. Olive oil, which is extracted from olives, is also a popular cooking oil and salad dressing.

So, the next time you eat an olive, remember that you are actually eating a fruit!

The olive is the fruit of the olive tree, a small tree that can live up to 800 years old. The fruit itself has many classifications.

For example, in America, it’s considered a vegetable by default because according to the USDA “Olives are included in the group of vegetables for which definitions and standards of identity are prescribed.”

However, in Britain, they’re classified as fruits due to their high oil content. Since olives have so much fat if you purchase them from places like Greece or Spain they usually come pitted so you don’t have to remove them yourself. 

Since you only use the pit when eating olives here in America, people tend not to consider it part of the fruit when eating.

Olives are part of the family Oleaceae and genus Olea, which make up 15-20 species of evergreen trees and shrubs that grow in subtropical climates.

These plants bear fruits called olives that contain high levels of healthy fat. They’re often pressed to produce oil for cooking, cosmetics, lamp fuel, and even soap products.

A vegetable is the edible part of the plant other than the seed (such as beans or lettuce).  Vegetables are often used either in fresh form (such as beetroot) or pickled (such as cucumber). The main role of vegetables is to provide bulk like fiber, minerals like potassium, and vitamins like Vitamin C that aren’t provided by other foods.


So let’s start by defining what we mean by “fruit” and “vegetable.” The definition I will use here today is: “a mature ovary; especially: one containing or enclosing seeds.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition. 1976). It is important to note that this definition only specifies the characteristics of “fruit” and does not specify what fruit has to be like.

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So now we ask ourselves, are olives fruits? To find out, let us open up some olives and take a look inside! They kind of look like green pickled eggs if you’ve never seen them before. The flesh contains many wrinkly black seeds which are usually removed before they are eaten. Olives also have an olive pit in them just like avocados do.

Since olives don’t taste like fruit and don’t look like a typical fruit, many people would automatically say they are a vegetable. But there are some reasons why olives might not be classified as vegetables:

  • They undergo the process of ripening just like most fruits do.
  • They contain sugars that contribute to their flavor.
  • They have pits just like most other fruits do.

The reason why olives are considered a fruit is that they have seeds inside them, which makes them a drupe rather than a berry – a fleshy pulp containing an inner stone or pit – or pome – fleshy fruit with seeds encased in a core. However, olives grow on trees, so they do resemble vegetables.

So it’s not known where they stand because of their opposing qualities; one could say that olives are fruits because their stone is enclosed inside the pulp.

However, since the pit isn’t eaten, olive oil is extracted from them and then consumed as if for consumption for fruit pulp, which makes it seem like they’re actually vegetables despite reasoning that due to having seeds (which make them drupes) makes them fruits by definition.

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What you should know about Olives

Common usage and region are what make the definition of ‘fruit’ up, although certain foods have official definitions.

How do you know which things are vegetables and which ones aren’t? Does classification depend more on the usage or origin of the food item?

Olives are also olive drupes, so there are two different tags for them. The US Supreme court has ruled on the definition of the word ‘fruit’, but it’s up to common usage and region how anything is classified as. 

How do you know which things are vegetables and which ones aren’t? It depends on if they’re sweet or not. If they’re sweet, then it’s a vegetable; if not, then it’s a fruit. The classification depends more on usage than the origin of the food item.

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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Definition:

The USDA states very clearly that an olive is both a fruit and a vegetable. This is because, under their classification system for vegetables, fruits are divided into two categories: those who have seeds inside along with everything else – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers – and all other fruits which have seeds separate from the surrounding flesh. 

Olives are one of the latter, so they’re officially both fruits and vegetables. While this may seem strange or inconsequential, it’s actually quite important.

The reason why olives are considered vegetables under the USDA definition is that they’re used as vegetables in culinary applications – that is, they’re cooked with other ingredients to make savory dishes. 

Olives are also used for many different types of relish and can be pickled. These days people use all kinds of fruits for these applications, so technically the classification of “fruit” or “vegetable” doesn’t hold much weight anymore. However, the label is still required on most food labels by law.

Labeling and Placement in Grocery Stores

Grocery stores tend to place olives with other vegetables, whereas if you go right up to the olive display you will see that some varieties are placed with fruit. 

This is to boost the appeal of olives. Olives are often considered “gourmet” items, so stores hope that this will make them more appealing to customers looking to purchase high-end products.

The line between fruits and vegetables can become blurred, especially in places where farmers use breeding techniques to develop new varieties of foods. 

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Blurring the Line: Hybrids and Definitions

When you create hybrids with familiar traits, it’s very difficult for outsiders to say definitively what counts as one thing or another just by looking at it. The legal definition of fruit and vegetable is based on how they’re used in cooking, which makes sense given that these two groups are always cooked together when made into dishes. 

So an olive is a fruit because it has inside – along with everything else – a pit with a seed. But it’s also a vegetable because it’s always cooked in savory dishes, and that’s how most people use olives.

Although most people believe olives are fruits, they are actually classified as both fruits and vegetables. Olives grow on trees (the plant itself is referred to as an ‘arbor’) and come in many varieties. 

Some olives are harvested when green while still others are harvested at various stages of ripening, including being red or black in color. Olives contain large amounts of oil which contribute largely to their characteristic taste and also give olives a high-calorie count.

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So what’s the deal then?

For farmers and agricultural researchers, however, this stuff matters a lot. For example: while some people may consider olives just another fruit (like), others would classify them as just another kind of vegetable (likeor). 

This is because the definition of what can be considered either a fruit or vegetable depends on the context – for example, grapes are typically used in wine production so they are defined by many governmental regulations as “fruits”. 

While olives are not used to produce an alcoholic beverage like wine, they are often allowed to ferment before being pressed – so depending on how you classify fermentation, olives are either considered to be fruits or vegetables.

The main takeaway from all of this is that it’s complicated! And because the term “fruit” has never been clearly defined within Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) regulations, there are no official rules surrounding how the term can be used for labeling purposes. 

Because of this, olive producers have long-debated whether referring to olives as fruit would hinder the marketing value of the product in their respective countries – but with many global consumers now looking towards plant-based diets and vegan lifestyles, calling olives a fruit might actually prove to be an advantage because people are more likely to feel comfortable buying them thinking they are veggies. 

However, not everyone agrees with this sentiment – many olives producers have instead opted to rebrand their product as a vegetable – but not everyone is happy with this decision.

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Why don’t some olive growers want to call olives a fruit?

It all comes down to marketing. In countries where olive oil is marketed as an essential part of healthy Mediterranean diets, people expect vegetables when they think of traditional cuisine from the region (which typically includes things like ratatouille, stuffed vegetables, or seafood soups). 

Of course, there are differences between countries when it comes to how far the regulations surrounding what can and cannot be considered a fruit or vegetable go – in some places, calling olives a fruit might actually lead to them being taxed more heavily.

In other places like the United States, where olives are sometimes marketed as fruit and sometimes called a vegetable (and sometimes even sold alongside other fruits like apples in grocery stores), producers have to contend with how they market their product – and while some argue that “olive” isn’t enough of an identifier on its own for consumers, others argue that it’s something you learn through experience. 

For this reason, many olive growers choose to use the term “stone fruit” when selling their products because people may not understand what an olive is just by hearing the word itself.

After all, if we know anything about modern marketing, it’s that food companies go out of their way to do research into consumer preferences and needs and then find ways to turn them into profit – and in most cases, they will find whatever it takes to make their product stand out.

What do farmers say?

According to olive growers in California, Oregon, and Australia, people who sell their products would be wise to avoid calling them fruits because consumers aren’t likely to put them with other fruits when buying – meaning this might stifle sales. 

is especially relevant for Americans who live in areas where locally grown produce is popular (and therefore seek out items that would normally grow together) or those who eat according to recommended servings of each food group every day.

In fact, according to a report from the California Olive Oil Council, “market data shows consumers have been conditioned to purchase items from the dairy case and the produce department,” and this subject might be one that some consumers feel very strongly about (especially when it comes to their own eating habits). 

As such, some producers argue that calling olives a fruit is actually bad for business because people will only consume them with other fruits – which means they won’t buy any oil or brine alongside the pits.

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What do farmers recommend?

For this reason, most growers believe it’s wise not to call olives a fruit on their packaging labels.

According to grower Dave Mouton of M3 Olive Farms in Oregon, “If you tell people it’s a fruit, they won’t buy it,” and that makes sense for this industry because having to explain what olives are might be too much of a distraction from the rest of the message on the label.

After all, companies spend lots of time and money finding just the right words to place on their products – and many producers feel as though correctly classifying olives would be counterproductive to their own bottom line. 

Instead, growers recommend calling olives a stone fruit or sweet fruit instead (which means they’d also take “olive” out of its name) because those terms make more sense for consumers who already know how to classify other produce like cherries or plums.

Protein0.8 grams
Carbs6.3 grams
Sugar0 grams
Fiber 3.2 grams
Fat10.7 grams
Saturated Fat 1.42 grams
Monounsaturated Fat7.89 grams
Polyunsaturated Fat0.91 grams

What should we say?

At the end of the day, some growers believe this is a question best left to consumers to decide. After all, labeling is just one small part of building trust between producers and buyers.

So if telling people that olives are fruits or vegetables loses that trust for some reason, it’s fair to say it might not be worth calling them either one no matter how many people want you to.

Whether you’re an olive farmer or someone who eats olives on occasion, deciding whether these fruits are closer to produce or dairy items doesn’t have any significant effect on your life.

However, making this distinction does make a difference for farmers who depend on specific terms when marketing their products.


Explore the world of olives, fruits, and vegetables at PlantGardener! Our blog delves into the rich tapestry of olive cultivation, covering everything from planting tips to harvesting techniques. Discover the nutritional benefits of olives and learn how to incorporate these versatile fruits into your culinary repertoire. We provide insights into cultivating a thriving vegetable garden, offering valuable guidance on soil preparation, watering, and companion planting. Elevate your gardening expertise with PlantGardener’s comprehensive guide to cultivating olives and a bountiful vegetable garden. Unearth the secrets to growing vibrant, healthy produce and enhancing your culinary adventures. Dive into the world of plant care and sustainable living today!

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This article has given both points of view on whether or not an olive is a fruit or vegetable and added some details about its characteristics in terms of how it is cultivated and how many calories it gives to whoever consumes them. 

It seems interested in staying objective rather than arguing one point over another while still providing knowledge about why people think what they do about this contentious issue.

FAQ for Are an Olive a Fruit or Vegetable?

Q: Is an olive a fruit or a vegetable?

A: Olives are both fruits and vegetables. Botanically speaking, they are fruits, as they contain a seed and grow from the flower of a tree. However, they are often classified as vegetables because of their savory taste and culinary uses.

Q: Why are olives considered vegetables?

A: Olives are considered vegetables because they are typically used in savory dishes, such as salads, sandwiches, and pizzas. They are also often pickled or used to make relish.

Q: What are other fruits that are also considered vegetables?

A: Other fruits that are also considered vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and avocados.

Q: Where can I find olives in a grocery store?

A: Olives are typically found in the produce section of a grocery store, near the other vegetables. However, some varieties of olives may also be placed in the gourmet food section.

Q: Why are some olives placed with fruit in grocery stores?

A: Some olives are placed with fruit in grocery stores to boost their appeal. Olives are often considered to be a “gourmet” food item, so stores hope that placing them with other fruits will make them more appealing to customers looking for high-end products.

What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?

Botanically speaking, a fruit is the ripened ovary of a plant that contains seeds. A vegetable is any edible part of a plant, such as the leaves, stems, roots, or tubers.

Q: Why does the classification of fruit and vegetable matter?

The classification of fruit and vegetable can matter for a few reasons. For example, some people may choose to only eat fruits or only eat vegetables. Additionally, some recipes may specifically call for fruits or vegetables.

Q: Is it important to know whether an olive is a fruit or a vegetable?

No, it is not important to know whether an olive is a fruit or a vegetable. Olives are a healthy and delicious food that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.


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