June 1st is the day we celebrate one of the oldest fruits in the world. (Yes, olives are a fruit because the pit is a seed.) Enjoy olives on National Olive Day in a martini, a Spanish Tapas, an Italian Antipasto, a Middle Eastern Meze or a loaf of focaccia bread.
National Geographic shares the history of the olive. “Archaeological and scientific evidence indicates that the olive tree was most likely first cultivated on the border between Turkey and Syria, spreading from there throughout the Mediterranean, to Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, France, and Spain. People in the eastern Mediterranean have been grinding olives for oil the last 6,000-8,000 years. Olive oil was used for cooking, cosmetics, medicine, and in lamps. The original Olympic torch burned olive oil.”
Today, there are over 2,000 varieties of olives that grow on 24 million acres of olive groves across the world. 90% of olives grown are made into olive oil. The remaining 10% are table olives.
California grows 95% of America’s olives, which represents only 1% of the world’s olives.
Spain grows most of the global olives because Europe’s olive trees are dying of a bacteria called Xylella fastidiousa and an invasion of the olive fruit fly. The olive trees on the right have not been exposed yet.Embed from Getty Images
Don’t eat raw olives.
The olives, glistening in the Mediterranean sun, look so appealing but don’t eat them off the branch.
No, they won’t hurt you. But before curing and fermenting they are very bitter. National Geographic says raw olives are “bitter enough to shrivel your teeth”. This may be an exaggeration, but the phenolic compound called oleuropein makes them so bitter most wildlife stay away from them.
What is the difference between green and black olives?
We assume that green and black olives are different kinds, but they’re not.
The color of the olive is determined by it’s ripeness.
The green olive is unripe, and the black olive is more mature, and ripened.
Tree ripened olives look purple due to anthocyanin, which also gives Concord grapes their color.
California makes olives black by curing them in an alkaline solution, and then treating them with oxygen and an iron compound.
How to celebrate National Olive Day.
Divina founded National Olive Day in 2015 to encourage us to try different olives than we usually eat. This is their promise: “For many, opening a jar of olives, peppers or tapenade suggests the start of something special. From garnishing a cocktail, to topping a pizza, to putting out a cheese platter, we take great pride and purpose in being a part of your most memorable meals and experiences.” (We love this because it aligns with our mission.)
Today’s the day to move beyond green olives stuffed with pimento and discover a new favorite.
Have an olive tasting party!
Why not make it a party? Invite your friends to an Olive Tasting Party to celebrate National Olive Day! Don’t forget to use the official hashtag #NationalOliveDay when you post your photos on social media.
Olive Tasting Party ideas with food and wine pairing suggestions.