Monday, October 7, 2013

O - O - Olives

When I visited my brother this past spring in Southern Spain, I got a taste of Spanish Olives.  The ones he served as tapas (appetizers) were stuffed with anchovies, oh - so delicious. The Spaniards eat them along with chorizo, a type of pork sausage or little sandwiches.  I also came to like the ones stuffed with garlic or pimientos.

Olive plantations Southern Spain
The first time I flew into Malaga, Spain, I was greeted by the olive plantations.  They looked like lush green balls, all lined up in rows, covering hill after hill.  After I tasted olives and really liked them, I did some research after coming back home, and discovered that we can buy most of them also here in America.

Here are my findings about olives:

The olive is a fruit from the  Olea europaea tree of the Oleaceae family.  In the middle of the fruit is one pit or stone.  Lilac, jasmine and forsythia are in the same plant family.  Some trees can become hundreds or even thousands of years old and still bear fruits.  The fruit is harvested in different stages as green, purple to black.  To fasten the process, commercial black olives are often treated with ferrous sulfate to achieve the black color.

Olives are grown for the oil, but the fruit also has its health benefits.

HealthBenefits of Olives 

Olives contain polyphenols which have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.  The fat content of olive’s monounsaturated fat (MUFA) can benefit lowering of high blood pressure and a healthy heart. MUFA is the healthy kind of fat compared to saturated fats and trans-fats. Olives can also help relieve pain because of oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound and benefit stomach ulcers by eliminating certain bacteria. For those who are low in iron olives can raise iron count. It also contains fare amounts of copper and Vitamin E.

While the oil of the fruit is 100% fat, the fruits usually only contain about 20% fat. 

Since olives from the tree are bitter, they are cured in different methods, either water-cured, brine cured (salt water - some fermentation occurs in the process), or lye cured. The curing process adds flavor to the olives.

Interesting fact about olive trees

There are some trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (which is the Hebrew word for "gat shemanim" or olive press) which are dated back to the time of Jesus, 2000 years ago.
For thousands of years the olive branch has been used as a sign of peace and goodwill. This may be partly due to the fact that in early cultivation of the olive, it took decades to bear fruit for harvest, and, therefore, it was believed that anyone who planted olive groves was expecting a long and peaceful life. The symbolism is also likely related to the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark and the dove.
Olive oil has been used to light lamps, to create heat, is used as food, medicine and perfume.  In religious traditions the oil is used to anoint and bless people.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil and the fruits.

Spain has the highest olive production in the world. The largest olive is called “dunkey olive” and the smallest is called “bullet olive.”
The most popular olives are the Kalamata olives from Kalamata, Greece.

15 olives can count as your daily serving of fruits.

 Christopher Columbus brought olive oil to America, but the trees were not introduced until later.

Go and try some olives and get to love them.

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