Olives have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. How are they processed and what is the best way to store them, are two often asked questions.
Olive trees are some of the oldest trees ever harvested by humans, a practice that dates back more than 8,000 years. Olives are fantastically diverse and equally versatile, whether ground into spreads and tapenades, tossed into salads, simmered in stews and sauces or eaten straight out of hand. Their sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent flavours are complex and delicious, making them an essential tool in any home cook’s arsenal.
The Olive is a Fruit
The olive is technically a “drupe,” a fruit with a single large stone inside. (Yes, olives are fruits, not veggies.) And no, one cannot just pick them from the trees and eat them.
You cannot just pick olives from the trees and eat them, the need to be cured. Olive curing is actually more like fermentation—it’s the conversion of the olive’s natural sugars into lactic acid.
Around the world, olives are a popular snack and for those who say they do not like olives, maybe you have based your experience with them on the taste of those bland black circles found on pizza?
Many Kinds of Olives
There are hundreds of varieties growing throughout the world, and they all have a unique appearance, taste, and texture. But, like most people, you probably only know two types of olives; “green” and “black.”
Fun dinner party fact: there are no green olive trees! The colour of an olive is an indication of its ripeness. Green olives ripen and become black olives. Or rather, they transform from green to light brown, to a vibrant red and purple, to the deepest, darkest black.
In general, the darker the olive, the riper it was when it was plucked from the tree, and different processing also affects the colour.
How to Store Olives
We want to keep our olives delicious as long as we can, but often people don’t store them in the right way and they go bad. Yes olives can go bad!
Our sense of smell is usually the best way to tell if your olives have gone bad because the olives will begin to have an odour. Their texture and colour may also change and they may develop mould if spoiled.
Good olives should be relatively firm, and never mushy or visibly bruised so store your olives in the fridge, soaking in the brine they came in. If there’s no brine, make your own by boiling water and salt until the salt dissolves. Cool, and then pour over your olives.
Keep them in a sealed container, fully submerged in their liquid.
Kalamata – Greek Table Olives
The king of Greek table olives, beloved and popular Kalamatas, are deep purple and a pretty almond shape. They’re typically preserved in red wine vinegar, red wine, and/or olive oil for a distinctive rich, smoky, fruity flavor. This variety is a great candidate for tapenades.
Manzanilla – Brine Cured Spanish Olives
This familiar, friendly, oval-shaped olive from Spain is brine-cured, with a crisp texture and a slightly smoky, almond-y flavor. They’re often stuffed with pimientos, or cracked and dressed with olive oil and fresh garlic.
If you are interested in olives and want to know more about South African Olives, contact SA Olive. And read about the characteristics of a good table olive.
Household Plastic stocks a variety of airtight containers, ideal for olive storage. Take a look at the HobbyLife 1.3l Airtight Olive Storage Box from Turkey (pictured above). For more great products take a look at our Kitchen Department.