Olive trees have been grown in the Mediterranean since biblical times, when they were brought there from the East by the romans. A wide variety of olives is cultivated all over the Mediterranean.

The majority are destined to be pressed into oil (nearly 20 per cent of their weight is oil)but some are kept as table olives to be salted, pickled or marinated  and served as part of an antipasto or used in cooking . All olives have a high calorific content and are rich in iron, potassium and vitamins.

There are two main types of olives; Green and Black. The difference in colour in olives is not a matter of type but simply when the olives are picked while immature in October or November. They have a sharper flavour and crunchier texture than black olives, which continue to ripen on the tree and are not harvested until December .Pale and dark brown olives are also grown in Italy, Sardinia, Morocco and Cyprus. From California there are popular straw coloured olives.

Culinary Uses

Olives can be served on their own, as a garnish or as a topping for pizza. There are numerous recipes where olives are essential ingredients, such as caponata.


Sicilian caponata is a dome – shaped salad of fried aubergines with celery, onions, capers, tomatoes and green olives.


The Italian pasta di olive (olive paste) is made from pounded green or more usually black. Olives and can be bought in jars .It is very salty and rich, so a little goes a long way. Olives are also used in many types of pasta and can also be served as a table condiment.