Olives are among the oldest cultivated foods known – they were planted and harvested in Crete some seven thousand years ago. While olives have a high fat content, almost three-fourths of their fat is the healthy monounsaturated type, which can help to improve cholesterol ratios. Olives are also a good source of vitamin E (which helps to neutralize free radicals), iron, copper, and dietary fiber.
If you tried to eat freshly picked olives from a tree, you would be in for a bitter surprise: only processed olives are palatable. Whether they are picked unripe (green) or ripe (black), olives need to be fermented and/or cured to become edible. (Note that some black olives are actually picked green; processing and oxidation turns them a darker color.) With a wide variety of choices, including Kalamata, Nicoise, Moroccan oil-cured, and Manzanilla, olives are a tasty addition to salads, pastas, grains, breads, meats and more.