Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Greek Olive—Little Fruit With A Big Taste

Greek and olive go together like Feta and cheese.  Although the delicious Feta is a relative newcomer to the dining table (a mere couple of centuries old), use of the olive in Greek cuisine dates back to Minoan times.  When?  Oh, about 3,500 B.C.  Given our human propensity to want to improve on everything, you’d think there would have been changes to the little fruit over the past 5,500 years. 
Not so.  The only difference between the olives used at Ziziki’s and those of yesteryears is the number of them growing on a tree.  The trees have gotten broader and more expansive, which means more olives for us.  These delicious fruits from the drupe family are similar apricots and peaches.  You sure wouldn’t know that at a glance, but if you open each of these fruits up you’ll find a pit with a seed or two inside of it. 
The best food olive—almond-sized Greek Kalamata Olives—range in length from a half to one inch.  Their excellent flavor has a rich and fruity taste.  Unfortunately you can’t grow this eggplant colored olive in your back yard.  It’s found exclusively in Greece.  If you live in 30° to 45° latitude, you might have success with one of the other types of olives your local nursery can recommend.  Or, you can just go to Ziziki’s and enjoy a delicious Greek meal with a friend.  While dining, impress your friend by asking if he/she knows the difference between a Black Olive and a Green Olive.
Oh, the answer . . . None beyond when they’re picked.  Green olives are, well, picked green.  Black olives are picked when they’re ripe.

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