The olive has its roots in a traditional Mediterranean diet, but it’s enjoyed worldwide these days. So National Olive Day on June 1 is a great opportunity to find a way to incorporate some olives into your diet! Perhaps your local grocer has an olive bar, allowing you to select from the numerous varieties of olives. Or maybe you’ve received an olive at your local bar, as garnish for a martini. (Even James Bond made the switch to an olive garnished martini in the famous spy’s latest movie, Spectre.) Olives have more nutritional benefits than you might think. They offer a host of healthy types of fats and fatty acids, while also providing a natural source of iron. And there are far more ways to prepare olives than you probably know. Olives are grown on trees, and they can be grown for serving as a table fruit or for producing oil. If you cook with olive oil, you can receive many of the same health benefits that eating olives provide, including the introduction of healthy fats. Grocers carry a wide variety of olive oils, so you have plenty of options for incorporating them into your recipes. National Olive Day is a great day to try eating some new varieties of olives. And it’s also a great day for learning the magic trick for getting pimento inside the green olive! (A high speed machine pits the olive and then stuffs in pimento, which, unfortunately, isn’t all that magical.)
Why We Love National Olive Day
A. They have more nutritional value than you might think
An olive has quite a few nutritional benefits, some of which you probably didn’t know about. One cup of black olives can provide about 40% of your daily recommended value of copper, about 25% of iron, and about 15% of vitamin E. Additionally, olives provide a variety of antioxidants and healthy fats, including oleic acid. Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to eat an entire jar of olives in one sitting. But if you’re looking for a healthy reason to enjoy a dry martini, stick a couple extra olives on the skewer.
B. Eating unripened olives won’t make you sick
Olives are considered a fruit. And olives are one of the rare fruits that won’t cause you to feel sick after eating them before they’re ripe. As olives grow on the olive tree, they turn from green to purple to dark brown to black. And they can be eaten at any point along the way … as long as they’re processed. Olives actually have a bitter taste when they’re initially picked. Olives are cured in water, brine, or lye to remove the bitter taste.
C. Olive trees can live for several hundred years
Olive trees are incredibly hearty. An olive tree’s average lifespan is about 500 years, and the oldest olive trees reportedly have been a few thousand years old. One of the most famous olive trees, located in Vouves in Greece, is more than 2,000 years old and still is able to produce fruit. Vouves even has an Olive Tree Museum. (Apple trees are very jealous.)
How to Celebrate National Olive Day
1. Find a new way to eat olives
Use National Olive Day as an excuse to make an olive-based recipe for the family. You also can add black olives to omelets, pizza, or nachos for a change in taste and texture to those foods. Consider traveling to the local grocery store and look through the olive bar. Pick a variety of olives and give them a try. You can even stuff olives with quite a few foods – beyond pimento – for a unique taste.
2. Visit a local authentic Mediterranean restaurant
If you can afford a quick trip to the Mediterranean to eat at an authentic native restaurant, that’s the best way to celebrate National Olive Day. If that isn’t quite in your budget, consider eating at a local Mediterranean restaurant and save a few bucks on the plane fare. You should have an easy time finding something on the menu that includes olives.
3. Learn about the phrase, extending an olive branch
The idea of extending an olive branch to promote peace dates back to ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Someone who was losing a war in those times would use an olive branch to show that they were pleading for peace. And in the Bible, the Noah’s Ark story included a dove carrying an olive branch to indicate it had found land, considered a metaphor for peace between God and man. Now we can’t guarantee presenting an olive branch will help quash the feud you’re having with a neighbor. But bringing along two martini glasses, vodka, vermouth, and a jar of olives may work.