Food Files: Olives and Olive Oil

A bowl of kalamata olives.

What exactly is an olive?  Is it a fruit?  A vegetable?  An oil?  Technically an olive is a fruit.  It behaves similar to other plant fats such as avocados or coconuts.  Healthy fats abound.  Olives and their oil have been used for millennia as part of healthy cuisine.  Terms like essential fatty acids are thrown around a lot.  They are also anti-inflammatory and lubricating to your joints, as well as being beneficial for your skin and hair.  There is a reason that these little wonder-fruits have stood the test of time.  Like everything else modern though, we need to be careful with how we go about selecting and eating these little treats.

I would say eating the fruit itself is probably the best option.  The problem is that most “olives” bought in supermarkets are drenched in vinegar, chemicals, preservatives, and who knows what else.  They are more often than not pasteurized and no longer living to preserve the shelf-life.  These are not the best thing to be eating.  There are a few companies that create truly RAW olives.  These are set in “brine” or some form of salt-water solution or an acidic medium such as apple cider vinegar.  This allows for some stable preservation without the harsh side-effects.  When it comes to choosing an olive oil, make sure that you find all-cold pressed.  These usually use centrifuges or other similar pressing devices.  The key is to avoid heating it.  Plant fats seem (except coconut) seem very fragile under heat.  They turn rancid or oxidize easily.  So get a nice, raw, cold-pressed olive oil preferably in a dark glass bottle.  Buy in small quantities or just get small bottle sizes.  Store in a cool dark place.  As the fat is very heat-sensitive it is best not to fry or heat this stuff too much.  Best option would be to drizzle on dishes after you cook them. A slightly less good option is using it for very low-heated sautéing.  Avoid high-temperatures with olives and olive oil.

Olives have been a key food in many cultures throughout history.  Let’s carry on the tradition and keep growing and eating these delicious fatty fruits.




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