*The olive is the fruit of the olive tree, Olea europea, an evergreen tree native to coastal areas of the Mediterranean region.
*Alfonso olives are large, soft, robust, winey tasting Chilean olives cured in wine or wine vinegar solution, which gives it a beautiful dark purple color and a tart flavor.
*Its flesh is very tender and slightly bitter, and is similar to Kalamata olives.
*These are popularly used in antipasto salads.
*Naturally ripened Alfonso olives are rich in a pigment called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This pigment is almost absent in cured black olives where the color is developed artificially by iron, a color stabilizer.
*They have an edible outer fleshy part filled with oil and a thick bony stone with a single seed.
*Olives have different colors not because they are of different types but because they are at different stages of ripeness or are cured in different ways.
*Olives are green when unripe and turn purple to black when fully ripe. Few varieties stay green when ripe and some turn to a copper brown color when ripe.
*The olives add color and flavor to a variety of dishes and can be used in salads, pastas, chicken and meat dishes, and martini, on pizzas, ground into a tapenade, eaten plain with bread and cheese, or just as finger food.
*Fresh raw olives are tough and contain a glycoside, oleuropein, concentrated in the skin, which makes them extremely bitter and unpalatable. A very few varieties are sweet enough to be eaten after sun drying.
*Olives are one of the few fruits that are not enjoyed in their raw state. Fresh raw olives need to be cured in brine or dry salt to remove the bitterness and make them palatable.
*Olives have a very high content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and are one of the two fresh fruits that have a high fat content (the other being avocado).
*The color (black, purple, brown, red, or yellow), texture (smooth and shiny or wrinkled) and flavor (mild, salty, sour, bitter, acidic, tart, smoky) of the olives depends on the curing medium – usually lye, brine, or salt and also the degree of ripeness when they are picked (green olives are picked while unripe, which makes them denser and more bitter than brown or black olives, which stay on the tree until fully ripened).
*Buying and storage: Select good quality olives from a supermarket in bottles or cans covered with brine. Bottled or canned olives keep well for over 2 years when stored at room temperature. After opening the can or bottle, store the remaining olives in their original brine in the open can (in non-metal containers) and cover with plastic wrap to allow oxygen to permeate. Do not store in an airtight container as harmful toxins may develop. Partially used cans may be held in the refrigerator for up to ten days.
Is it raw?
Yes and No.
*Yes, if picked directly from the trees or if it says sun-dried on the package. Very few varieties of olives are sweet enough to be eaten after sun drying.
*No, because most of the olives found in the supermarkets are cured and bottled or canned to remove the bitterness. Olives found in supermarkets are cured and canned in brine, salt, oil, wine, vinegar or with other herbs and seasonings. Make sure you read the label.
1. Olives are one of the two fresh fruits (the other one is avocados) that have high content of monounsaturated fats (MUFA), which are heart-healthy.
2. The monounsaturated fatty acids, especially oleic acid, lower the LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in blood and raises the HDL cholesterol.
3. Alpha-linolenic acid, the omega-3 fatty acid in olive oil, promotes a healthy heart, reduces hypertension, reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases and cancers, acts as a blood thinner and prevents the formation of clots and improves depression.
4. MUFA are also believed to be beneficial in the prevention of gallstones.
5. Good source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that fights against the free radicals in the body and protects our cells from the damage (oxidation) caused by them, thus reducing the risk of heart diseases, cancers and other inflammatory diseases.
6. The anti-inflammatory actions of monounsaturated fats and Vitamin E in olives may also help reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
7. The phytonutrient compounds found in the olives like the polyphenols and flavonoids have been found to have significant anti-inflammatory properties.
8. Regular consumption of olive oil reduces the risk of hypertension.
9. Good source of ‘beta carotene’, a precursor of Vitamin A, which also acts as an antioxidant along with Vitamin E.
10. Moderate source of calcium, which helps in the mineralization and re-mineralization of the bones, thus aiding the development of young bones and offering protection against osteoporosis in older people.
11. Moderate source of iron, copper, magnesium, which are essential for maintaining the normal metabolic activities in the body.
12. Good source of dietary fiber, which promotes satiety, adds bulk to the intestinal contents, causes easy bowel movement, and helps in control of constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticular disorders, etc.
13. Canned olives have a very high amount of salt and sodium in them, so they need to be taken in moderate amounts.