NATURE’S MOST VERSATILE FRUITFrom a symbol of peace and source of sacred oil to the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet and preferred martini garnish, the fruit of the olive tree has provided much throughout the 7,000 years it’s been cultivated. Originating in the Eastern Mediterranean, this long-lived evergreen with silver green/grey leaves belongs to a group of fruits called drupes, or stone fruits and are related to mangoes, cherries, peaches, almonds and pistachios. Let me first give you a deep backdrop of this one-of-a-kind fruit before speaking of its health benefits. It’s a clear misconception to consider Olives to be vegetables. It’s a fruit and can vary in colours namely, green, black, dark brown, purple and pink. The colour of the fruit varies as per the maturity of the fruit. The unripe fruit is green and as it ripens with time, it heads towards the purple/black tone. In other words, a dark-coloured olive means it’s ready to be used. Olive trees are mostly found on the Mediterranean coasts and the Western Asia region. An olive tree can grow as tall as 15 meters in height. It grows into a well-branched tree and lives up to 2000 years. The leaves of the tree are rather oval-shaped and elongated with a greyish green texture on the upper side and a whitish texture on the lower side. It takes a tree at least 15 years for the first harvest. The average lifespan of an olive tree ranges from 300 to 600 years. One of the oldest olive trees in the world is on the island of Crete. The tree is about 4,000 years old and is still producing fruit.
“ Now here are some food and nutritional facts about Olives! ”Mostly, Olives are not edible when they are green or ripe for that matter. They must be treated with lye or cured in brine to make them edible. Olives contain about 20% oil in them. They are treated in brine to get rid of the bitter glucoside oleuropein. Once done, then they are pickled. Large size Olives are called donkey olive sand the smaller ones are known as bullets. Olives are a great source of the following nutrients:
a) Vitamin A
b) Vitamin E
c) Vitamin K
d) Vitamin B
e) Polyphenols such as Omega-6 and Omega-3
Polyphenols are good for the heart as they help prevent coronary ailments, help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and contribute to anti-ageing. Olives strengthen the human immune system and protect the body from free radicals. Olives pair well with fish & poultry but can also instantly and elegantly elevate a recipe such as roasted cauliflower, a citrus salad and even deviled eggs. Toss them with roasted vegetables and the end of the cooking process so that they become warm but still maintain their texture.