All About Olives
Olives are the fruits of the olive tree (Olea Europaea). Yes, olive is a fruit, not a vegetable.
There are about 700 varieties of different olives varieties in the world. Nevertheless, buying olives in a store you can usually see just two color type difference: green and black olives.
Black is a symbolic name, because absolutely black olives do not exist in nature. Ripening, the olives darken, getting various shades, from bright brown to deep purple.
If you bought perfectly black olives then most likely they are artificially colored green olives. Such olives are processed with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide, very toxic substance!) and then coloured with artificial color iron gluconate E579. They are less tasty and most of their nutrients are killed by this process.
Right after harvesting, olives are impossible to eat because of their bitterness.
In order to get rid of bitterness, olives are kept in brine for several months.
The only exceptions are Greek olives Throumpa from Thassos island.
These olives lose their bitterness during the ripening and by the time of harvesting are already edible.
Health Benefits of Olives
Why are olives so bitter? The cause of bitterness is oleuropein.
This phytochemical with such a complicated name helps the olive tree save its fruits from birds and animals.
However, even this is not able to stop the olive fly, which is capable of ruthlessly destroying all the olives on your tree.
Oleuropein is a natural antioxidant that supports the good functioning of the cardiovascular system by reducing bad cholesterol. It also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and strengthens the immune system.
The pulp of olives is rich in proteins, pectins, vitamins A, E, C and B, as well as iron, potassium, phosphorus and polyphenols.
Olives contain more than 30% of oil, which has high levels of polyunsaturated fats.
Green olives are larger and more hard and contain more vitamins and polyphenols than dark ones.
Dark olives are always slightly smaller, more gentle and contain more oil than green ones.
Olives in Mediterranean Cuisine
In Mediterranean cuisine olives are used both as snacks and as ingredients in many dishes.
They are put in salads, soups and stewed with vegetables.
Olives are added to meat and fish to spice up the dish, usually along with oregano, rosemary and other herbs.
Also, olives are absolutely indispensable for cooking canape, rolls and bruschetta for various stand-up dinner parties.
Olives go well with Asian cuisine. For example, you can add them to thin green beans with tomatoes in soy sauce or to wild rice with mango sauce and vegetable salad.
There are many types of olives available in stores and marketplaces. Here are the most popular of them:
- Olives in brine,
- Olives in brine with olive oil,
- Olives in brine with olive oil and vinegar,
- Black sun-dried olives.
Be sure to rinse the olives with cold water before eating to remove as much as possible salt from them. Even better, pour out the brine, rinse the olives, pour cold water into a jar and put it in the refrigerator. The very next day, there will be significantly less salt in the olives.
Some Tips on How To Buy Olives
- Buy olives at specialty stores or marketplaces. Ask the seller about region and harvest period. Olives are harvested from October to December. They go on sale after ageing in brine for 6 - 12 months. Usually, the shelf life is 2 years.
- When buying olives, taste them. Don’t listen to anyone, just trust your taste buds. Olives must be juicy and saturated. You should feel the distinct, fresh, natural taste of olives but not the tasteless mass that has lain in brine for many years.
- Buy olives with stones. Pitted olives are dead olives. They instantly absorb the brine or marinade in which they are stored. Since the texture of such olives is broken, the brine easily penetrates the pulp of the fruit and completely deprives it of its natural taste.
- Also, be careful when buying olives stuffed with almonds, lemon, pepper, or anchovies. First of all, all these flavours are a great opportunity to distract you from the lack of taste in the olives themselves. And secondly, in the production of stuffed olives, more preservatives are always used. However, if you are in the region where olives are grown, then you can buy stuffed olives from farmers. In this case, you can be sure of the freshness and high quality of the product.
In general, the main rule is: only buy olives that have a natural and fresh taste of olives. Even if they are in vinegar or with herbs, the first thing you should feel is a taste of olives.