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Fruit of great tradition throughout the Mediterranean, it houses the same healthy fats as its valuable juice, olive oil. Countless varieties and dressings make it the star of the aperitif and a stellar resource in the kitchen.

In Spain there are up to 262 varieties of cultivated olive trees (Olea Europea sativa), but only a part provides olives suitable for consumption as fruit. Even so, Spain is the world's leading producer of table olives.

Harvest and preparation

Olives are greener or black depending on whether they are less or more ripe at the time of harvest.

The greens are harvested before veraison (period in which they begin to mature and change color), when they reach the appropriate size for marketing; They are the main raw material of the olive industry. The black ones, if they are natural, are harvested at full maturity with varied colors: reddish black, purplish black, greenish black, dark violet or dark brown. If they are collected a little earlier, they can also present pink, vinous or brown colors. Unfortunately, many of the black olives on the market have not ripened but have been blackened by oxidation and treated with alkaline bleaches to remove their bitterness.

However, olives can only be consumed fresh if the substance that imparts that bitterness to them is largely eliminated: oleuropein.

A treasure of the Mediterranean diet

One of the most outstanding nutritional characteristics of olives is their fat content. The amount varies considerably depending on whether they are black (30%) or green (15%), which also explains the fact that black olives provide more than double the calories. On the other hand, taking into account that olive oil is neither more nor less than the result of extracting the fats from the olive, the quality of the olive oil is, essentially, the same as that of the product. star of the Mediterranean diet.

Their fiber content is also notable (4%), with a lignin / cellulose ratio of less than 0.5, which makes them quite digestive in general.

In relation to vitamins, there is some controversy about their vitamin E content. In the opinion of some authors, they are rich in tocopherols and tocotrienols, outstanding antioxidant compounds. The content of the rest of the vitamins is otherwise quite modest.

But beyond their nutrient composition, table olives are considered an outstanding source of polyphenols, antioxidant substances that are usually found in higher concentrations than in olive oil.

Rich in salt ... and in calories

In 100 g of olives there can be between 5 and 8 g of salt, a very high amount that means that they should be consumed very moderately, especially if the relationship established between a high salt consumption and the presence of arterial hypertension.

Gold in the kitchen

Since ancient times, in all the civilizations in which the olive tree is present, olives have been edible gold on the table. As well as being a classic aperitif, they offer limitless culinary possibilities. They are always a good resource; You just have to know how to choose the right variety in each recipe so that it enhances the flavor without distracting attention from the rest of the ingredients, giving its humble but daring touch.

Because of their consistency and aroma, olives are used in the preparation of tasty vegetable patés. Also in fillings or if you want to enrich a tomato sauce for pasta.

The most recommended olives to use in the kitchen are those that have not been processed and debittered by aggressive procedures (caustic soda or alkaline bleach ...)

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