I love them. And right now, you are probably doing one of two things. Either nodding in agreement, your mind bringing forth a vision of a warm Mediterranean evening, the paving under foot still warm from the heat of the day, the final rays of sunshine slipping below the horizon and cicadas beginning to chirp. A glass of lovely red, a small bowl of olives and tearing some crisp bread to go with them.
Olives invoke that feeling in me.
Or alternatively, your’re screwing up your face in utter disgust at the mere thought of it. Your body recoiling at the memory of the bitternes of your first taste of olives, your sub-concious brain telling you to never, ever put one of those vile things in your mouth ever again. My friend McKenna calls them The Devils Testicles.
If that’s you, then that’s your loss.
It’s strange the impact that a discussion as simple as olives can have on a conversation. I’ve written before about how the taste or smell of something can easily evoke memories and emotions within us. It’s a primal human characteristic and one that, in these digital times, we don’t often listen to.
In the same way that the sound of the laughter of a small child makes us smile, or the sound of a crying baby grabs our attention in a primal way, taste and smell are senses that we really don’t take notice of as much as we should.
Yet we really should take the time to listen to these signals. When was the last time you tasted or smelled something and the memories it invoked made you stop and think for a few minutes?
So About Olives.
Here are three sets of facts I’ve discovered from my friend Google all about Olives. In the interests of objectivity, I have divided them into three separate sections.
Firstly, a set with no bias whatever, simple facts.
The second set are for the haters. Here’s your ammunition to use the next time the olive enthusiast in your life gets all passionate on the subject. Shoot them down.
And thirdly the reasons why they are good. The facts that I prefer, as someone with an appetite for Olives.
A. The pure, unbiased facts.
- It’s actually a fruit, in the same style as a peach, a plum or a cherry it has a stone in the middle and therefore it’s a fruit. I can hear the haters already.
- Olive trees have an incredibly long life, many lasting hundreds of years, with the oldest being 3,000 years old and still bearing fruit today in Crete.
- There are 800 million olive trees growing in the world and more than 500 different varieties of olives. As you might imagine, the greener an olive, the younger it is. These youthful olives are typically picked from the tree in September and October—early in the harvest season. Green olives are often tart in flavour with a crisp, firm flesh. Black olives are allowed to ripen longer on the tree before they are plucked—typically in January—creating a more tender and more complex olive with deeper, richer notes.
I didn’t even know that myself.
B. For the haters, here is your ammunition.
- Olives cannot be eaten straight from the tree. Unlike a peach, apricot or other lare stone fruit, they need to be treated before they can be eaten. The simple fact that they are inedible initially is natures way of saying, “Just leave them, what are you doing? Stop trying to eat them!”
- The green ones aren’t even ripe. What on earth are you thinking? Would you eat a green banana, eat a green tomato? No, of course you wouldn’t. Stop eating olives.
- Even the method of treating them to make them edible sounds horrible. Either brine which involves soaking in salt water for months, dry salt cure which involves packing them in salt, or Lye cure which is in fact caustic soda. Sounds really appetising, doesn’t it?
So the haters have plenty of ammunition to go at with this three simple facts.
C. Here’s our defence. The Olive lovers top three reasons why we should be eating more.
- They take time to get to know. Many food you try are kind of one dimensional. Fish n chips are what they are, bananas are much the same. A banana is, well, a banana, right? I’m sure to be shot down for this one by the banana enthusiasts, however my point is that there are a great many different variety of olives. And, like apples, we develop our favourites over time. And even have preferences for different olives for different things.
- They’re good for you. Come on, everyone knows that. Olives are very high in vitamin E and other powerful antioxidants. Studies show that they are good for the heart, and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer.
- They are the perfect finishing touch to so many of my favourite things. A crispy pizza tastes so much better with a few black olives added. My Martini is raised to a new level with an olive inside it. What would Salad Nicoise be without black olives?
In the end I stand by my original assertion. Some may hate them, hate the taste, hate the look, hate most things about olives. I love olives, for all of the reasons I have set out above.
However I will leave you with one final thought. The Olive tree has been considered as symbol of peace for many centuries. And in today’s divisive, bigoted and blinkered world, bickering over whether olives are good or bad is, in fact, the least of our problems.
So, olive lovers, reach out with your olive branch to the olive haters.
The olive tree has been seen throughout history as a symbol of peace, victory, and the endurance of life itself—evoking feelings of harmony, vitality, love and health.
And the olive branch as a symbol has been with us for many, many years. This symbol of forgiveness and peace is perhaps one of the very best reasons why we all need olives in our lives, whether we enjoy the flavours of them or not.
What’s not to like?