Last month was our family olive harvest. We only get to do this every other year, and I just loved it. Olive trees are just so beautiful in every way—I am discovering—from the ways that they produce, to their health benefits.
Presently we have two olive trees in our yard, a male and female—so we refer to them as. Two trees are needed for sufficient reproduction; you cannot plant them alone; they won’t make little olive babies if they are “all by their lonesome”. Once my husband told me a story, about a friend of his, who learned about olive tree reproduction the hard way. He was at awe with the production of our trees and said, “I planted mine 10 years ago, and I’ve not seen one olive yet!” My husband then explained he needed to plant another tree, a “bride” nearby, so to speak. They must be side by side–a few feet apart—to become a fruit producing olive tree. How beautiful is that? A long and lasting marriage can only last if two stand side by side, and the same is true for the olive tree! (I am a romantic, who just happens to see poetic splendor in everything, btw.) My in-laws planted these two love birds’ years ago; this will actually be their twenty-year anniversary; since, our trees have contributed to a major food staple–in our home. By now, you are probably thinking, how can we tell the difference between male and female? There is really no difference, each year the trees rotate in production. The olive trees give us nearly half a ton, every other year, and as long as they are not chopped down an olive tree can bear fruit for hundreds of years (So I am told!).
Another perk to olive trees besides their beautiful ways of romance are their nutritional value: both fruit and leaves can be utilized for their many benefits. And they are not just moderately healthy, some people regard olives as the “world’s healthiest food”; if that’s the truth, unquestionably, I am a winner! Oh, why am I so lucky? I guess that’s because our tree produced an extremely large amount of olives this year, enough to keep our family satisfied for a few years–at least till the next harvest.
What are some of the factors that make these fruits so good for you? The Following list was taken from WHFoods.org:
- “Greek-style black olives, Spanish-style green olives, Kalamata-style olives, and many different methods of olive preparation provide us with valuable amounts of many different antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. While there are trade-offs that occur during olive ripening and olive curing—for example, decreased oleuropein with advanced stages of ripening yet increased amounts of anthocyanins—it’s impossible to rule out any single type of olive as being unworthy of consideration as a uniquely health-supportive food, particularly in terms of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.”
- “Hydroxytyrosol, an olive phytonutrient that has long been linked to cancer prevention, is now regarded as having the potential to help us prevent bone loss as well. Several recent laboratory animal studies have found increased depositing of calcium in bone and decreased loss of total bone mass following consumption of this olive phytonutrient (as well as oleuropein, another key phytonutrient found in olives). These findings are fascinating, since consumption of a Mediterranean Diet has long been associated with decreased risk of osteoporosis, and olives often find themselves on center stage in Mediterranean Diet studies.”
- “In traditional herbal medicine practices, preparations from olives and olive leaves have often been used in treatment of inflammatory problems, including allergy-related inflammation. New research may help explain how olives work to provide us with anti-inflammatory benefits, especially during circumstances involving allergy. Olive extracts have now been shown to function as anti-histamines at a cellular level. By blocking special histamine receptors (called H1 receptors), unique components in olive extracts may help to lessen a cell’s histamine response. Because histamine is a molecule that can get overproduced in allergy-related conditions and can be a key player in the inflammatory process, it’s likely that the anti-inflammatory benefits we get from olives involve this anti-histamine pathway. It’s also possible that olives may have a special role to play as part of an overall anti-allergenic diet.” The list of benefits that Olives provide is not the end of course, the list goes on and you can view that at the source: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=46
My own recommendation asides from eating the healthy fruit—for all it is worth–involves using the leaves for skin care. I create a simple face or bath soak with the leaves of my trees by adding a bunch of cleansed leaves to water; the water will then containe some of the oil from the tree leaves (takes a few hours). After washing your skin in the olive water you will be glowing and looking fresh! Here is a photo of my soak, sometimes I just throw leaves in a warm bath for fun.
For a special treat, I am also adding a little how to on the canning process of olives, in case you are up for farming and canning your own olives!
The Process of Curing and Canning Olives
Typically olives are ready to farm in early autumn, around September. All olives must endure some curing process in order to diminish the properties that make olives so tart! They are usually way too bitter to eat off a tree: don’t expect them to by like other fruits you can pick right off a tree to devour. Follow these steps that we practice at home to get our own olives at a preferred taste.
- After harvesting olives make a slit on the top of each olive (this is for the curing process). Yes it is a tedious task and can take days if you do not have an extra hand and a large amount, but it is well worth it. If you can gather five friends, or family members for help, you may be able to complete the task in a day.
- After slitting all the olives to remove the bitterness, you must set the olives in water and salt for a matter of days. The water and salt must be changed at least every two days, this cycle of curing must be done up to two weeks, ten days at the least.
- After the two week curing process is up, the olives are ready to be jarred and pickled. The best part about this process is you can pickle them with any flavor that pleases your pallet–from garlic, oregano and Mediterranean flavors, to spicy Mexican flavors–that choice is up to you!
*Jarring or canning your olives will require several jars that you trust can reseal tightly. I use all recycled jars that I save throughout the year. We added photos to show the process.
- Like I wrote previous, get all your jars and flavors to pickle your olives ready! My first step is to wash the olives in a pasta drainer.
- Start a big boiling pot of water aside, to top off your jars.
- Fill your jars with the olives and flavors, we pack in a few peppers too, salt and garlic usually. Depending on what you like, and the size of your jars you must add vinegar, then use some of the boiling water to top them off.
- After filling the jars with olives, flavors, vinegar, and hot water, add the jars to a smooth pot of boiling water, the water should cover the tops of the jar. This is the sealing process. You can lower the temperature if the water boils to vigorously. Set the jars in for a minutes and remove to cool, the lids should be now tightly sealed and ready to stow away in your pantry! It usually takes less than 20 hours for the protruded part of the lid to sink back in, a sign the jars a sealed.
More health benefits of Olives
– Olives eliminate excess cholesterol in the blood.
– Olives control blood pressure.
– Olives are a source of dietary fibre as an alternative to fruits and vegetables.
– Olives are a great source of Vitamin E
– Olives act as an antioxidant, protecting cells
– Olives reduce the effects of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, benign and malignant tumours, including less serious varicose veins and cavities
– Olives help prevent blood clots that could lead to a myocardial infarction or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
– Olives protect cell membranes against diseases like cancer
– Olives are a great protection against anaemia
– Olives enhances fertility and reproductive system
– Olives play an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, especially during oxidative stress and chronic viral diseases
– And just in case these benefits weren’t enough, they are also a great aphrodisiac.
– Olives are nutritious and rich in mineral content as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine
– Olives provide essential vitamins and amino acids.
– Olives contain oleic acid, which has beneficial properties to protect the heart.
– Olives contain polyphenols, a natural chemical that reduce oxidative stress in the brain. So by eating a daily serving of olives helps improve your memory by up to 25%.
– Just one cup of olives is a great source of iron – 4.4mg.
– Eating olives can improve the appearance of wrinkles by 20% since they contain oleic acid, which keeps skin soft and healthy.
– By eating just 10 olives before a meal, you can reduce your appetite by up to 20%. This is because the monounsaturated fatty acids contained in olives slow down the digestion process and stimulate the hormone cholecystokinin, a hormone that sends messages of fullness to the brain.
– Not only does it do that, but it also helps your body to stimulate the production of adiponectin, a chemical that burns fat for up to five hours after ingestion.
For more information, visit the SA Olive Industry Association’s website or their Facebook page.
SA Olive Industry Association press release