By Ginger Patterson,
The olive is probably the most mentioned fruit in literature and is cited as far back as Homer, the Bible and the Quran.
It is grown on a short, squat, gnarled tree that is native to the eastern Mediterranean, particularly Lebanon and Northern Iraq. These trees can live for hundreds of years; the oldest is believed to be 2000 years old.
Today the olive tree is cultivated in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and California, as well as the Mediterranean area.
The fruit, called a drupe, can be harvested green or left on the tree to ripen, in which case it turns a deep purple.
Many of the black olives sold today are actually turned black chemically.
An olive from the tree is bitter and must be cured or brined to be edible. The green olive is fermented before it is brined.
American black olives, called Mission olives, are milder and do not have to be fermented.
The Mission olive is just one of the hundreds of types that are grown. Another notable one is the Kalamata olive from Kalamata, Greece. Both of these olives are called table olives and are grown for eating.
Green olives are stuffed with pimento strips and are also for table consumption.
The major agricultural use for olives is for making olive oil.
An olive is about six to seven calories and is about 75 percent fat.
Most of the fat is monounsaturated. Olives are rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin E.
Unfortunately, an olive is high in sodium due to the brining.
There are about 60 mg sodium in only one olive.
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