Peace be with you! Welcome to our web site. Did you know that we were the symbol of peace to the ancient Greeks and that’s where the expression ‘to offer an olive branch’ comes from. When the Greeks wanted to make peace they would literally take a branch from an olive tree and offer it to their enemy, who was duty bound to accept it.
We have a long and distinguished history, indeed. Next time you bite into one of us, remember that the same flavour was enjoyed by people living before 4000 BC. You see, we have the distinction of being the oldest tree in continuous cultivation. But more of our history later. Let me tell you about my family.
We are thin-skinned fruit, about 1.5-2cm long, egg-shaped and green with a shiny, oily appearance. If left to mature on the tree we turn dark purple to black. Inside we have a large, egg-shaped seed with pointed sharp ends. Our meaty flesh is inedible until properly pickled.
Olives are available from March to August.
Did you know?
• An olive tree can live for over one thousand years
• We’ve been cultivated in Australia on and off for 150 years
• Those of us that are good to eat as table olives are different from those that are best for producing olive oil. Good table olives have a much lower fat content than oil olives
• People in Turkey are the largest consumers of table olives in the world. We are also eaten in large quantities in Greece (including for breakfast), southern Italy, southern France, Spain and Portugal.
• We’re high in salt as we’re preserved in dry salt or in a brine (salt) solution.
In Australia olives are sold on colour - either green or black.
Why Olives are Good to Eat
• We supply vitamin E and small amounts of other minerals and vitamins.
• We are unusual among fruit and vegetables because our flesh has some oil. This is actually ‘good’ fat and it also has some valuable antioxidants that you won’t find in other oils.
• We’re not edible straight off the tree so we’re usually salted. If you eat olives, it’s therefore good to eat fruits or vegetables that are high in potassium because this helps balance our high salt content.
• 100g of olives (weighed with stones) has about 700 kJ.
How Olives are Grown and Harvested
We’re grown on small, 3-12 metre tall, rounded, much branching, evergreen trees. The leaves of our parent plant are leathery, long and oval-shaped, with a grey-green upper surface and a paler whitish lower surface. They begin to bear fruit between four and eight years, and after they reach the age of 15 will continue to bear fruit for hundreds of years.
Our parent tree produces small, white, fragrant flowers, which form in clusters on a single stem. Only a few olives develop on each flowering stem regardless of the number of flowers. The tree prefers a temperate climate with warm summers and cool winters and grows in a variety of different soils. It tends to hibernate each winter before flowering and fruiting in the warmer months.
We’re picked when green or after we have started to turn black. In addition to being used for pickling, we’re an important oil crop.
Pick green olives (for pickling) when we are a pale green to yellow colour and black olives when dark purplish in colour.
How to Keep Olives
Store us in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Prime Growing Areas
History of Olives
Legend has it that the olive tree was first grown in the Garden of Eden. Many areas in the Middle East and Mediterranean have also been suggested as our native land. It’s true that our parent trees are a characteristic of the Mediterranean landscape but we’re also found throughout other areas of the world.
Our spread to newer countries, like the USA, Australia and New Zealand, coincided with the migration of people from the Mediterranean and southern Europe. Commercial plantations for fresh olives and oil are increasing in Australia.
Fun Ways to Eat and Cook Olives
Stoned or stuffed, we can be used as a flavouring, an ingredient or simply as a snack or appetiser. We’re commonly used in Mediterranean dishes including pizza, relishes, salads, sauces or antipasto platters.
Because green olives are picked before we’re ripe we must be rinsed, then pickled in brine to remove our bitter taste. The brine can be seasoned with herbs and spices and we can also be stuffed with anchovies, capsicum and almonds.
Black olives are picked when ripe and are pickled in brine and sometimes then in oil. Why not try and prepare your own olives?
Split some green olives by lightly tapping with a hammer on the top end. Be careful not to crush them. Cover with cold water and leave 1 week, changing the water every day. Mix 1kg salt and 8 litres of water seasoned with herbs, such as bay leaf, fennel, coriander seeds. Pour over olives and leave 8 days before eating.
Remove stones from green olives with stone pitter. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking. Stuff with anchovies, pimento or almonds and serve as a snack or as a garnish with meat.
Prick 100g each black, green and stuffed green olives to allow marinade to penetrate. Mix 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, a pinch of chilli (optional) and 150ml olive oil. Cover olives, seal in airtight container and chill for 48 hours. Serve as a finger food. The oil can be used in salad dressings.
Olive, Orange And Raisin Salad
Peel and slice oranges. Sprinkle with black olives, raisins and thinly sliced red onion. Serve on a bed of watercress drizzled with French dressing and chopped parsley.