Latin name: Olea europaea
What are Olives?
Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, olives are fruits of the Olea europaea tree; Olea is Latin for “oil.” Olives are not eaten off the tree, but require special processing to minimize their natural bitterness. There are many different processing methods, which depend on the olive variety, cultivar region, and the intended taste, texture, and color.
Olives, one of the oldest known foods, are believed to have originated in Crete as far back as perhaps 7,000 years ago, and then their use spread rapidly throughout Egypt, Greece, and Asia Minor. Since ancient times, the olive tree has provided food, fuel, timber and medicine for many cultures. Olives are mentioned in the Bible, illustrated in ancient Egyptian art, and appeared frequently in Greek mythology.
What are the health benefits of Olives?
Considered neutral by traditional Chinese medicine, olives are used to quench thirst, heal a sore throat, treat laryngitis, alleviate a whooping cough, and combat dysentery.
Olives have a high concentration of monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. They are also a good source of iron, copper, and dietary fiber. Monounsaturated fats are thought to exert a protective effect on the body’s cells, which, when combined with the antioxidant protection of vitamin E, can lower the risk of damage and inflammation of the body’s tissues. Olives also contain a variety of beneficial active phytonutrient compounds such as polyphenols and flavonoids, also possessing significant anti-inflammatory properties.
By neutralizing free radicals, the nutrients in olives help prevent colon cancer, as well as defend against the oxidation of cholesterol, protecting you from heart disease. The anti-inflammatory properties of the olive’s monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, and polyphenols may also lessen the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Where can I find Olives?
Olives can be found in grocery stores and specialty food markets. Available year round, olives are harvested in September.
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