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Olive is a bitter fruit obtained from the olive tree. Olive is green when unripe and turns black when ripe. It is a major component in cooking various dishes pertaining to international cuisine. Olives are consumed in raw form and it is also widely used to extract olive oil. It is also eaten in cured form, popularly known as ‘Table olives', pickled olives, olives in salad.

Olive is a kind of fruit grown extensively in the Mediterranean region. The fruit is borne on an evergreen shrub, also called the Olive. Olives have been eaten since ages, their mention is found in many ancient literatures. Spain is the largest cultivator of olives in the world. Generally, there are two types of olives found, Black and Green. Olive is bitter to taste thus, to reduce the bitterness and make it more palatable the fruit is subject to fermentation. Fermentation of olives is followed by packing them in a brine or vinegar solution before being sold in the market. Olives stuffed with herbs, vegetables or cheese is also available in stores. Kalamata olives, a famous variety from Greece, find extensive use in most of the olive recipes. Cooking with Olives Olives are ready to eat like any other fruits. They are added to salads and pasta recipes. Olive oil is widely used to prepare salad dressings. Due to their nutritious properties olives are often found in recipes meant for the health conscious. Olive Byproducts Olive is referred to as a blessed tree. Almost all parts of the olive tree are used in some form or the other. While the Olive wood is used to smoke meats, olive leaf is known for its medicinal properties. The olive fruit is widely consumed as a snack or in salads and olive oil is one of the healthiest oils that can be used raw, whether internally or externally.

History of Olives

The olive tree has been cultivated for at least 5000 years back in Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. In Ancient Greece, it is a sacred offering to goddess Athena. The olive branch is traditionally a symbol of both peace and fertility.

Culinary use of Olives

Olives are used for both food and oil. Basically, olive oil is a fruit-juice that is taken out by squeezing the olives. It is used as cooking oil while making finest of olive dishes in various cuisines. Olive oil can be used while frying vegetables and meats or as a dressing in salads. Olive fruit can also be eaten as a side dish, but raw olives are so bitter and unpalatable that they have to be pickled in brine and marinated in olive oil before eating. Cuisines Commonly Making Olive Dishes Olive is a major component of the cuisines of Europe, North Africa, Middle east and Mediterranean region. Amongst the European cuisines, Italian dishes are called olive dishes as they are mainly cooked with olive oil. Pickled olives are also widely eaten in above mentioned cuisines. Italian pastas, chicken dishes, salads, sauces marinated vegetables and meats are some of the dishes that involve extensive use of olives and olive oil as a main ingredient.

Preferred Cooking Methods for Olive

Olive oil is the main component of olives that is used while cooking. Raw olive is also used in pickled form as a well-liked side dish. Chopped olives are added to salads, pastas and pizza toppings. Olive oil is used to deep-fry or stir-fry vegetables and meats. It is also a main ingredient in marinating various meats and vegetables.

Nutritive Value of Olive

Many people used to think that olives and olive dishes were a high-calorie food due to the oil they contain. But in fact, both black and green varieties provide relatively low calories. Although, olives are a rich source of vitamin E. The oil derived from olives is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which, unlike saturated fats, do not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels and may even help to lower them slightly. Olives and olive dishes are high in sodium due to which, they should be eaten moderately by anyone with high blood pressure.

Buying and Storing of Olives

Always buy fresh and clean olives. Any deformity and plumpness in the olives is the sign of ageing. Firm olives are always to be preferred. Olive oil should also be purchased with care. It should be purchased in small quantities as it may get oxidized very fast. Olive oil is classified according to the grades, hence grade should be checked on the bottle while buying it. If possible, taste the olive oil. It may give you the opportunity to choose from the sweet olive oil or peppery olive oil. Fresh olives can be stored in refrigerator for 2-3 days. Pickled olives have a larger shelf life as they are brined and salted. Olive dishes can also be stored in refrigerator for not more than two days. Olive oil gets rancid very easily so it should be kept in stainless steel containers or dark bottles. Never keep olive oil in plastic containers as it is highly reactive with plastic.

Types of Olives

Olives are broadly classified into two types: Green olives and Black olives. Green olives are unripe and used as a filling with almonds, japaleno and capers. Black olives are fully ripe olives and contain more oil than green. Here are some of the popular varieties of olives used in making various olive dishes:

• Manzanilla – It is a Spanish green olive.

• Picholine – A French green olive with subtle and salty flavor.

• Kalamata – It is the most commonly used Greek Black olive. It has almond shape and a rich and fruity flavor.

• Nicoise – A French Black olive with nutty flavor.

• Liguria – An Italian black olive available in salt brine. It has a vibrant flavor.

• Ponentine – Another famous Italian black olive with mild flavor.

• Gaeta – Black olive from Italy mildly flavored and often packed with rosemary.

• Lugano – Italian black olive with high salt content.

• Sevillano – Salt-brine cured olive from California. It has a crispy texture. The taste of olive dishes depends upon the variety of olive used.