Think of olives and you instantly think of Spain, matadors, flamenco and sunny terrains (read Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara)! For most of us, olives are synonymous with bursts of flavour. Round, compact and delicious, olives are fast becoming popular as a delectable and nutritious finger food. Here's a quick overview of the fruit.
The edible olive has been cultivated for at least 5,000 to 6,000 years, with the most ancient evidence of olive cultivation having been found in Syria, Palestine and Crete. Olive oil has long been considered sacred. The olive branch was often a symbol of abundance, glory and peace. The leafy branches of the olive tree were ritually offered to deities and powerful figures and used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars.
Olives are rich in fibre and micro-nutrients such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron and iodine. According to Mayo Clinic, they are also rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs- the good fats!) and help lower cholesterol levels. MUFAs also help to control blood sugar by regulating insulin levels, which is especially helpful for people with type 2 diabetes. In addition to these benefits, olives are rich in vitamin E; which means that healthy skin, hair and nails follow automatically if your diet is rich in olives. Olives are a major part of Mediterranean diets that are, arguably, the healthiest diets in the world.
One of the reasons why children should be gently encouraged to have olives is that they are rich in polyphenols that improve memory. According to research done by the University of Massachusetts, eating a daily serving of olives can enhance memory by 25%.
In India we mostly get canned olives which are preserved in brine. It is always a good idea to run the olives in fresh water to drain out the excess salt just before using.There are over 90 varieties of canned and bottled olives available today with various stuffings such as cheese, pepper, capers etc. Children may not instantly like their slightly bitter aftertaste but the trick is to smartly sneak them into their favourite dishes such as pizzas and pasta. Olives are great in salads and sandwiches too and even as a mid-day snack along with some cheese.
Here are some wonderful ways in which you can incorporate olives into your diet:
- Sprinkle on multi-grain toast with onions, tomatoes and grated cheese. Grill in a hot oven for 7 to 8 minutes, till crisp.
- Add olives to a mushroom omelette. Prepare a duxelle (chopped mixture) of onions and mushrooms separately by lightly sautéing in olive oil. Add chopped olives when cooled. Fold this filling into a fluffy omelette.
- Mix up a salad of lettuce, baby tomatoes, grapes and olives in a tangy vinaigrette dressing.
- A shashlik of olives, cheese cube, cherry and pickled onions is a perfect mid-day snack. Plus, it's a treat for the eyes, with all the green, yellow, red and white on the plate!
- Add olives to dips and sauces such as hummus, tartar, hung curd and garlic dip or salsa for an added punch and zest.