Olives have been a staple diet for millions of people in hundreds of countries for thousands of years.
History has been made, wars have been won and civilisations have thrived on the humble olive.
The olive and its oil have a unique flavour and texture, unlike any other fruit in the world.
In recent years the introduction of more modern production and harvesting methods have enabled the world to savour the delicious delights of the fruits of the olive tree.
Olives have been growing in southern Spain for over three thousand years. They were introduced by the Phoenicians and then further established by the Romans.
But it was the invasion of the Moors from north Africa which really set them on their way to becoming the life-blood of Spanish food and culture that it is today.
Most of the great olive and olive oil producers are still to be found in the fiercely hot south of Spain, in particular in Andalucia - which is where we just happen to live!
They basically come in three main types: green, coloured and black. They are all, however, products of the same tree.
Green ones are produced from fruits harvested during the ripening period once they have reached normal size but before they change colour.
Coloured ones are produced from reddish or brown coloured fruits harvested when they are completely ripe.
Black ones are produced from fruit which are actually over-ripe and have been darkened by oxidation.
The size depends on how much fruit its tree produces each year. With a high yield there will be a greater number, so consequently they will be smaller. Obviously, the opposite happens in years with a lower yield.
With the increase in more modern agricultural techniques and methods of irrigation, this size difference is much more closely controlled today. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this a good thing or not!
Some of the very finest olive oils are produced from olives picked from the trees by hand! Click here for more info on olive oil and its production.
You can use your olives in hundreds of dishes and recipes, from the simplest tapas to the most complex cookery. You can put them in salads, serve them with fish and meat, and slice them onto your pizza. You can stuff them, chop them, mince them or just eat them whole with a glass of sherry.
You name it and you can probably do it with an olive!