The fruit of the olive tree is commonly consumed in Mediterranean countries where its culture occupies an important place. The great interest in the health benefits of the olive and its oil comes from the results of studies that have demonstrated a low incidence of coronary heart disease and certain cancers in countries where the diet is Mediterranean. Olives and especially olive oil are an integral part of this type of diet.
- Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids;
- Rich in calories;
- Source of vitamin E;
- Role in the protection of the cardiovascular system;
- Source of antioxidants.
What is olive?
Olive identity card
- Type: Condiment;
- Family: Burseraceae;
- Origin: Mediterranean region;
- Season: November to February;
- Color: Black or green;
- Flavor: Salty.
Characteristics of the olive
When harvested, the olive is a small fleshy ovoid fruit, black or green in color, which contains a nucleus. This nucleus is actually a seed used to grow the olive tree.
Word from the nutritionist
Olives are caloric foods, so consume them in moderation.
For 100g of green olives in brine:
|Vitamin E||1.2 mg|
|Beta carotene||180 µg|
6 benefits of olive: why eat it?
- About 75% of the lipids in the olive and its oil are in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (MFA). The consumption of AGM is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. GMOs are known to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood when they replace saturated fatty acids in the diet. In addition, they could also increase HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) levels in the blood when they replace some of the carbohydrates in the diet. Finally, GMOs protect LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) from oxidation, helping to prevent atherosclerosis. For your information, 100 g of olives provide 8 g to 12 g of AGM, while 100 g of olive oil provides six to eight times more.
- Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging. Several studies have made it possible to properly identify the phenolic compounds in olive oil and to verify their effects on health. Little is known about the antioxidant profile of the olive and the benefits that its consumption could provide. However, we know that the variety, maturity and storage of olives are factors that influence their antioxidant content. In general,
- Canned ripe olive is a source of iron for men, but not for women, their needs being greater than those of men. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin (such as the olive) is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when it is consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.
- Canned ripe olive is a source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.
- Pickled green olive is a source of vitamin E. A major antioxidant, vitamin E protects the membrane that surrounds body cells, especially red and white blood cells (cells of the immune system).
- Olive oil is a source of vitamin K. This vitamin is necessary for the production of proteins which participate in blood clotting (both in stimulation and in inhibition of blood coagulation). It also plays a role in bone formation. In addition to being found in food, vitamin K is manufactured by bacteria present in the intestine, hence the rarity of deficiencies in this vitamin.
Choosing the right olive
Good olive oils are presented in dark glass containers which protect them from the deleterious effects of light. For the same reason, some are wrapped in aluminum foil. Ideally, the production and expiration dates should be indicated on the bottle.
Although the indications “extra virgin” and “virgin” mean in principle that the oil is of good quality, in fact, this is not always the case, manufacturers have found a way to tamper with the degree of acidity, which normally allows these categories to be established. Be wary of pale, low-odor oils offered at low prices. Note also that the indication “pure olive oil” is not regulated. The lower quality oils are treated with solvent and refined industrially several times.
The different forms
Commercial black olives are often green olives which have taken their dark color during the aging process, in contact with oxygen, soda or other elements added to the marinade. They were harvested before reaching full maturity. Olives harvested black at maturity are usually, although not always, wrinkled.
Keep the oil in a cool place, away from light. Do not refrigerate. Close tightly after use.
In their sealed container, the brined olives can be stored for one year. Put in the refrigerator after opening.
How to cook it? How to match it?
- Add a drizzle of oil on grilled fish or meat, on potatoes or other cooked vegetables.
- Replace the butter in a quiche base with olive oil.
- Brown large slices of country bread in the oven, rub them with garlic, sprinkle with a good, tasty olive oil, sprinkle with salt and taste immediately.
- Heat fifteen minutes in a saucepan two cups of water, a bay leaf, peppercorns, vinegar, garlic and salt. Add an eggplant cut into cubes and cook for a few minutes. Drain, dry, cool. Chop the eggplant with pitted olives and add olive oil to obtain a thick puree. Spread on bread and enjoy. You can replace the eggplant with artichoke hearts.
- In pestos, made from basil or other aromatic herbs.
- In mayonnaise and salad dressings.
- In Tuscany, a thick soup is prepared by blending cooked cannellini beans in a blender or food processor (you can substitute ordinary white beans), green onions, herbs – rosemary, thyme, bay leaf – and olive oil. ‘olive. Heat this preparation with chicken or vegetable broth for about twenty minutes, add as many cooked beans and cook for ten minutes. Rub slices of bread with garlic, place in bowls, pour soup and add a drizzle of oil.
- Serve lettuce hearts (Boston or romaine) with black olives split in half, cheese cubes and sliced green onions. Drizzle with olive oil and pepper.
- Serve the pasta simply drizzled with olive oil to which we will have added parsley and garlic.
- Put pieces of dry goat cheese in a jar, alternating with savory or other herbs of your choice. Fill the jar with olive oil, put in the refrigerator and wait a month before serving as a starter or in a salad.
- Sauté a chicken and add green and black olives at the end of the cooking.
- In Sicily, we prepare the muffolata salad by marinating together various types of olives, celery, cauliflower, pieces of carrot, pepper, onion, capers, parsley and pepperoncini (a chili pepper slightly spicy Italian). Keep this preparation in the refrigerator for one to seven days, then serve as a side dish of cold cuts and cheese.
- In the salad of Nice, with rice and tuna. For this dish, preferably use small Nice olives.
- Add sliced green or black olives to the bread dough just before the second kneading and the second lifting, enclosing them in the dough when folding. Before putting the loaf in the oven, brush it with olive oil. If you prefer, you will rather give the dough the shape of a fougasse.
- Black olives are essential in Mediterranean pizza which, in its simplest expression, is composed only of dough covered with a coulis of tomatoes, anchovies and olives.
- Prepare a short pasta salad by adding tomato wedges, cooked green beans, thin slices of onion, cheese shavings, capers and black olives.
- Bring a little variation to the ratatouille by adding black olives at the end of cooking.
- As a salad with tomatoes, onion and white beans.
- Tapenade is prepared with black olives (preferably from Nice), anchovy fillets, capers, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. We pass everything in a blender or in a food processor and use it to spread bread croutons, coat a roast before cooking or flavor a stew, tomato sauce, a vegetable gardener, etc.
- You can stuff your olives yourself after having pitted them. Pieces of sweet pepper or pimento, blanched almonds, anchovy butter, pesto, the possibilities are numerous.
The term “olive” appeared in the French language in 1080. It is derived from the Provençal olivaqui borrowed from the Latin Olea. The term “oil” appeared at the beginning of the 12th century in the form of “olie”, “oile”, then “uile”. It comes from the Latin oleum, “olive oil”, which is derived from Olea, “olive”, indicating that, for the Romans, oil and olive were synonymous. The French word “h” appeared to avoid any confusion between “uile” and “vile” at the time when the consonant “v” was written “u”.
A wide range
Still unknown to North Americans a few decades ago, olive oil was only found at the table of immigrants from southern Europe, who saw it as a staple product. Today, there is a wide range in trade, from the rather tasteless and inexpensive industrial product to local oils, pressed and bottled at the producer’s domain, and prized by gourmets.
We found near Livorno, in present-day Italian Tuscany, fossilized remains of olive trees (Olea sylvestris), the wild ancestor of the olive tree, dating back 20 million years. According to the most recent work of geneticists, this tree was domesticated 5,000 to 7,000 years ago in several places in the Mediterranean basin (Lebanon, Israel, Syria, France, Spain, Corsica, Maghreb, etc.). The selection exercised by humans in order to modify certain characteristics will have the effect of giving birth to a specific species, the olive tree, of which there are many regional types.
Three thousand five hundred years before our era, Crete is enriched by the cultivation of the olive tree and the export of its oil. Two thousand years later, the Greeks will also cultivate it intensively. With the expansion of their colonies, they will introduce it into southern Italy and North Africa, from where it will spread to the south of France. Under the Roman Empire, the olive tree will be planted in all the countries of the Mediterranean basin where the climatic conditions allow its growth. The lucrative oil trade, which the Romans took control of, will help secure their power and hegemony around the world.
However, the Barbarians and the first Arab invasions will spell the end of a prosperous period for the cultivation of the olive tree. It will be necessary to await the crusades and, more particularly, the trade of Venice in the XIIIth century so that one is interested there again. Olive oil then becomes a very lucrative trade again, because it is used not only in cooking, but also for lighting, soap making and textile treatment.
After Cortés’ conquest of Mexico, the Spanish missionaries planted olive trees on their new territory as well as further north, during their expansion towards what would become California. All the missions had to have olive trees in order to have sufficient oil reserves to meet the needs of religious rituals, cooking, lighting and soap making.
American olive oil?
In front of Europe, a large producer of olive oil, the American state of California is trying to make it out of the game by focusing on quality. It has production standards that are just as rigorous as those prevalent in Europe, where more than 60 appellations of origin protect local oils, produced on a small scale using ancestral methods.
The olive tree is cultivated today in all the regions of the globe which are located between latitudes 30 and 45 of the two hemispheres, the main part of the production being ensured by the countries of the south of Europe.
If the oil has been known since time immemorial, we do not know when exactly we began to consume the fruit, which requires treatment with soda in order to eliminate its bitter principle, oleuropein. It will be necessary to wait to know the de-bittering effects of wood ash (ancestor of modern soda) to be able to appreciate it, a knowledge that dates back to Roman times. Since then, the olive has come a long way. It is appreciated not only by Mediterranean people, but by the majority of Westerners, who have an infinite variety of shapes, colors, sizes and flavors.
Ecology and environment
With its tough leaves presenting devices to combat excessive perspiration in the summer, the oleaster is particularly resistant to drought and is, therefore, very valuable for the ecology of the countries of North Africa, because it helps combat desertification.
Until 2003, it was believed that the olive trees, wild ancestors of olive trees, were a homogeneous group, confined to the east of the Mediterranean basin and that all of the cultivated olive trees were derived from just one of these trees.
However, thanks to avant-garde techniques, French researchers have discovered that the olive groves are much more diverse than previously believed. They therefore have an extremely rich genetic background. It constitutes a precious resource for the future improvement of the varieties of olive trees that have been cultivated for a long time, particularly with regard to the characteristics of local adaptation and resistance to diseases. On the condition, however, that we succeed in preserving the genetic resources of this tree which still grows in the wild, but which is in danger in many places, because of urbanization, desertification and spontaneous hybridization with cultivated forms. Various programs to this effect are underway in the Mediterranean countries.