Archaeology digs show that olives were grown in Crete as far back at 2500 BC. Since that time the growing has spread to Greece, Rome, as well as other parts of the Mediterranean. Although most people think of the olive as a vegetable, it is a fruit; a fruit that grows on a tree.
The olive fruit tree can grow as tall as 50 feet and can survive well beyond 500 years. They are hearty; constantly springing back upward if they are cut off at ground level. When you see an olive tree it looks quite ordinary, much like many other trees you might see, except for the small oval shaped fruit hanging from the branches. For Italians though, the olive tree is a great symbol of history and endurance. The olive grove conjures up feelings of peace, joy, and good health.
In ancient times the olive tree provided not only food, but medicinal potions and oils for everything from cleansing the body to nourishing families. Back in those early days the olive grove endured drought, windstorms, floods and many other hardships, yet survived. Today there are hundreds of varieties of olives.
The difference between black and green
The difference between black olives and green olives is simple – green are not ripe and black are ripe. Green is picked before ripening. Both tend to go through some sort of curing process before being consumed. They can be pickled, soaked in oil or brined. For the most part, green olives are more bitter than black.
What’s in an olive?
The olive is considered one of the most nutritional fruits we have at our fingertips. According to nutritionists they are filled with iron, copper and are a source of dietary fiber. They also happen to be rich in vitamin E, which is a well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
The oil that is extracted from olives is a big draw for consumers. Today North Americans are the third largest consumer of olive oils in the world. Italians and Spanish are the biggest consumers. Olive oil is a main ingredient in many sauces, dressings and marinades.
In recent years olive oil has been the source of a lot of scientific study. Here is what the research has suggested about olive oil consumption…
- May reduce risk of stroke in older people
- Lowers risk of depression compared to those who consume trans fats
- Does not raise risk of heart disease like trans fat does
- May protect against breast cancer
- May help maintain healthier cholesterol levels
The type of fat found in olive oil is called monounsaturated fatty acids or MUFA’s. They are considered a healthy dietary fat. If you replace your saturated and trans fat diet with MUFA’s you may gain some of the health benefits mentioned here; however, keep in mind that even healthier fats like olive oil are high in calories so you have to consume them in moderation.
So does Madaleno Magazine share your love for Olives? The answer is likely, yes if you have read this far. What is our fascination with the olive? Part of the Madaleno history is in olive farming in Italy.