The olive is the fruit of the olive tree that grows abundantly in the Mediterranean. It is from the olive that the olive oil, arguably today’s most important health food, is extracted. If you’ve been watching My Greek Kitchen, you might have seen the episode where host Tonia Buxton and her family harvested olives the traditional way — by shaking the trees.
But the fruit has other culinary uses other than as a source of oil. You find them on pizza, pasta, canapes and even in cocktail drinks. They are sour and salty and slightly bitter. What most people do not know is that the sourness and saltiness are the result of fermentation and curing. In its raw state, the olive is not edible. It has to be soaked in brine or undergo some other form of curing in order to make it palatable.
In the market, you’ll find green and black olives. They are often packed in jars and soaked in brine. What is the difference between green and black olives?
Aside from taste and color, they are from the same tree. The only difference is the ripeness — green are picked when they are immature, and black olives stay on longer. [Olives 101]
Some people balk at the taste of olives. My older daughter, Sam, says she hates it. But I had this theory that when served correctly, and in the right amounts, olives make a dish memorable. If olives enhance rather than overpower, even olive haters like Sam will appreciate them.