25 May

The Mystery of the First Olive Eater

It’s often been speculated on, just how did early man discover the worth of the humble olive? I mean, pick a ripe one off the tree and pop it into your mouth, then chew. Hmmm… Pretty awful, isn’t it? But the final product is delicious, so how did early man make the discovery jump?

The fact is, no one knows for certain. Perhaps a hungry person several thousand years ago came across some olive that had fallen into sea water. The brine solution might have effectively processed them and somehow it was discovered that they tasted quite good. It isn’t too much of a jump in such a situation to extrapolate that artificially processing them in brine will reproduce similar results!

Processing olives is a slow and careful process. It’s been perfected over the centuries into an art, though each region has its own little “secrets.” According to WHFoods.org:

Olives cannot be eaten right off of the tree; they require special processing to reduce their intrinsic bitterness, caused by the glycoside oleuropein, which is concentrated in their skin. These processing methods vary with the olive variety, cultivation region, and the desired taste, texture and color to be created.

But you don’t need to know all that to know that olives are a great food source that produce the finest kind of vegetable oil the world has ever known. I wonder, did early man ever think about the oil trapped inside the olive?