What is an olive?
The olive is a fruit, or more precisely a ‘drupe’, which indicates a large stone inside like a peach or cherry. Packed full of the compound oleuropein it is intensely bitter, has an extremely low sugar content and a very high oil content varying on the time of harvest and cultivar.
Such characteristics make it a fruit that cannot be consumed directly from the tree – it has to undergo a series of processes. It depends on the cultivar: most are suitable for milling into olive oil but there are around 120 cultivars that are classified as edible and these need to be processed via curing, drying, soaking or rinsing depending on local customs and methods. There is one cultivar we know of that can be eaten directly from the tree, the Thrubolea in Greece.
As with the grape, much of the goodness of the olive is found in its skin. For this reason, hand sorting of the olives before they are pressed is an essential step in high quality olive oil production.