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Olives – always a popular component of Mediterranean cuisine

What would a Greek salad be like without olives? It is impossible to imagine Mediterranean cuisine without the bitter fruits of the olive tree, which have been used for thousands of years. The colour has nothing to do with the variety. All olives are initially green on the tree and change colour from reddish brown to deep purplish black as they ripen.

Black olives are more bitter and richer in calories

Green olives, picked while unripe, have a firm flesh and taste milder while the black olives have an especially bitter note. The dark fruits are rich in valuable unsaturated fatty acids but this means they are also higher in calories. Black olives contain an impressive 351 kilocalories per 100 grams while green olives only have 131 kilocalories. On the positive side, they also contain vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron and phytochemicals.

How olives are made edible

Whether ripe or unripe, black or green – olives taste very bitter straight from the tree. They are usually soaked in brine for a few months to make the raw fruit edible. Afterwards, they are put into vinegar, oil or a herbal marinade, stuffed with almonds or refined with various ingredients such as garlic and chilli. Olives can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. They taste good on their own as a snack with a glass of wine, on a pizza or in pesto, for example. In the South of France, they make the creamy paste called tapenade from black olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, olive oil and basil. This is a delicious accompaniment to bread, pasta and grilled foods.

Large selection in the supermarket

The olive (olea europea) belongs to the olive tree family and is widespread across the whole of the Mediterranean region. It takes from seven to twenty years for an olive tree to bear fruit. Consumers can find a wide selection of green and black olives in jars or tins in the supermarket. Loose olives from the deli counter or a Turkish greengrocer often taste more aromatic. Some manufacturers bypass the long curing process and dye unripe green olives with colour stabilisers ferrous gluconate (E-579) or ferrous lactate (E-585), which are approved for the purpose. While dyeing them black is perfectly legal, it must be clearly shown in the list of ingredients. Consumers can also tell a genuine black olive by its dark stone.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de