Olives are the fruit of a tree native to the Mediterranean area. They must be cured before consumption and cannot be eaten raw. Olives are eaten as a finger food as well as in recipes. Olives are pressed to extract healthy olive oil.
Common and Other Names
olive, olivea, oleaster
Many markets and ethnic specialty stores have deli departments with a variety of brined olives available in small and large amounts. Olives are also readily available canned and jarred. If you have an olive tree, you can try brining your own.
Select olives based on your own personal tastes or the recommendation of your specific recipe. When selecting bulk olives, avoid any that are soft and mushy.
Olive Varieties and Forms
Olives are available in many forms: oil-cured, water-cured, brine-cured, dry-cured, lye-cured, pitted, unpitted, stuffed, and unstuffed. The most popular black and green olive varieties are: manzanilla, picholine, kalamata, nicoise, liguria, ponentine, gaeta, lugano, sevillano.
Unopened cans and jars should be stored in a cool, dry place up to one year. Once opened, canned olives should be removed from the can to a glass container and covered in the canning brine. Refrigerate and use within two weeks. Bulk olives in oil should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for up to two months. Discard any that become soft.
Miscellaneous Olive Information
The only difference between green olives and black olives is ripeness. Unripe olives are green and fully ripe olives are black. Olives must be cured before eating. Fresh olives from the tree are unbearably bitter and inedible.
Junk Potato Chips, Eat Black Olives Instead
It’s a misconception that olives are fattening. If you have a serving of 25gm a day, you can benefit from the cholesterol-lowering and cancer-preventing qualities of oleic acid. But black olives are healthier than the green ones because they contain less salt, more iron and fewer calories, writes Raquel Castello of Spain Gourmetour.
Table olives are not only good to eat but also have excellent nutritional qualities. The oil they contain is mostly made up of unsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid, which, like olive oil, helps prevent cardiovascular diseases. They are also very easy to digest because of their fiber content and contain a good proportion of minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iodine.
Olives are widely believed to be fattening; however, 100gm of green olives have 154 kcal and the same amount of black olives has 143, compared with 564 kcal from 100gm of potato chips or 557 kcal from 100gm of fried corn kernels, according to a study carried out in 2006 by the Fat Institute in the Spanish town of Sevilla.
Dr Carmen Gomez, President of the Spanish Association of Basic and Applied Nutrition, says, “Black olives contain less salt, more iron and fewer calories – about 25 kilocalories per serving, compared with 40 in green olives And not all green olives are the same. Generally speaking, Manzanilla contain more salt and more vitamin E, and Hojiblanca more fibre.”
Dr. Gomez recommends about 25gm of olives a day. “The amount can be decreased for overweight people or for those with high blood pressure, or increased for people needing a higher energy and mineral intake, such as athletes,” she says.
These nutritional aspects are perhaps not very well-known, but the same cannot be said about the gastronomic qualities of olives. In Spain they are the standard ingredients in tapas, whether served alone or in combination. A Gilda, named after the eponymous heroine of the North American movie, is a famous appetiser comprising an olive, an anchovy and a chili pepper on a stick, excellent at any time of the day. Plenty of other tapas include olives – from Russian potato or tomato salad to anchovies in vinegar to canapés. And where would the classic Martini be without the addition of an olive?
Olives have become something of a cultural emblem and appear in many traditional Spanish dishes – in Andalusian fish and meat stews, salads, with eggs, in the Catalonian and Majorcan cocas or flat cakes, in gazpacho, in stuffings and in certain cold cuts, such as Italian bologna. But Mediterranean cuisine in general also offers many dishes in which olives are essential, such as French tapenade (a paste made from black olives, anchovies and capers), Greek salad (in which the two definitive ingredients are feta cheese and olives), and pizza and pasta in Italy. In Turkey and the Middle East, too, olives are irreplaceable.
They may be used as an accompaniment to dress up a dish, from starters to desserts, or to provide a contrast with their bitter, acid, sweet or salty notes. Many contemporary cooks have focused on olives in their creations. A good example is Ferran Adria, widely acknowledged as the world’s most inventive chef. In his 2005 menu, he offered the “spherification of olives.”
These looked like olives but burst in the mouth to reveal their true nature, releasing a pure, delicate, delicious olive juice – the result of culinary technology working magic with Spanish olives.
Like him, many other chefs, including Dani Garcia, have given added dignity to the table olive, featuring it in ice-cream, sorbet, jam cream and chips, bringing out its flavour and personality (Source: Spain Gourmetour, May-August 2007. Go to www.spaingourmetour.com )