GROVE TO TABLE: All the tasty olive facts
Olives are an incredible thing! Grown and cultivated by humans for over 8,000 years. Pressed or brined and turned into ingredients necessary for all manner of cuisines. A true culinary staple.
Where do olives grow?
Olives were traditionally grown in the Mediterranean, spanning from Spain to the Arabian Peninsula. Loving subtropical climates with mild winters and long, warm, dry summers. Early colonial settlers took the olive with them, planting in regions mimicking their own. That is why we see olives thriving in places all over the globe from California to Peru and South Africa to Australia.
Olives fresh from the tree are very very bitter. Almost inedible. They must be brined in salt to remove the bitterness. After they are deliciously brined olives are further flavored, infused with a variety of oils, vinegars and seasonings.
Olives come in all sorts of vibrant colors: green, brown, black, purple and even pink.
There are over 800 million olives trees planted worldwide.
An olive tree can live up tp 2000 years! And the oldest olive tree is 4000 years old and lives on the island of Crete-it still produces olives!
How is olive oil made?
Olives are rich in oil, over 30% of their weight. After the olives have been harvested, they are ground and pressed. This pressing separates the oil from the olive pulp. This can be done using modern machines or traditional stone presses. The oil is then filtered, removing any impurities and bottled.
Extra Virgin is the term given to olive oils that have not gone through excessive processing using high heat. This cold pressing preserves the oil’s natural flavor, making it a superior and delicious ingredient.
Each olive has a different taste profile giving olive oil a variety of distinct flavors. From earthy to peppery or bitter to sweet, olive oil can be as nuanced as wine. Some producers blend different types of olive oils to make flavorful signature combinations.
Olives are so important that even the English word for ‘oil’ comes from the Greek word ‘elaia’, meaning olive.
Olives are fruit and classified similarly to their other family members: plums, peaches, apricots and cherries!
Green olives are unripened olives. They deepen in color as they ripen.
Olives came to the United States from Spain, specifically by the Spanish Missions, giving the history behind the name of the California Mission Olives.
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