The fruit of the olive tree, native to the eastern Mediterranean. The ripe (purple) or unripe (green) fruit is stored in brine to remove its naturally bitter flavor before consumption, and the ripe olives are ground to extract their oil, highly valued in cooking. Olives have been used as food for thousands of years; the city of Athens, Greece is named for the goddess Athena's gift of an olive tree to its citizens. Olives are high in fiber, Monounsaturated fat, iron, and vitamin E.
Olives come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They can be black, green, slightly purple or brown. They are generally round or egg shaped. Sizes range from slightly larger than an almond to about the size of a 50 cent piece. They come either, with the pits intact or pitted and sometimes stuffed with everything from peppers and anchovies to cheese and nuts. Most often they will be stored in a brine, but can be cured in oil or salt.
Selecting and Buying
Preparation and Use
A staple of Mediterranean cuisines, olives are most often eaten out of hand, though cooks also use them to flavor everything from pizzas to martinis.
Olives are eaten as a finger food as well as in recipes. Olives are pressed to extract healthy olive oil.
Conserving and Storing
Opened cans or jars of olives should be refrigerated, but some olives can be stored at room temperature if they're submerged in brine or olive oil.