I was on a tour of the Acropolis when I heard the story of how Athens got its name. My tour guide Alexia told us this story at a specific point at the foot of an olive tree. According to legend both the Goddess Athena and God Poseidon both desired to be the patron of the city and named the deity of the city. So, they had a contest to see who should have control of Athens and its surrounding area and gave the people of Athens the choice of who they wanted as their patron by choosing based on the gift that Poseidon and Athena had to give them. Legend has it the contest happened on Acropolis Hill. Poseidon threw his trident at the earth and from it sprouted a stream of water. However, as Poseidon was the god of the sea, it was saltwater, which was not judge particularly useful. Athena stuck the ground with her spear and from the spot grew an olive tree.
Which do you think the people chose? It was the olive that won favour, since they judged it much more useful, and chose Athena as their patron and deity. In the first place it was a versatile food more useful and which provided a good source of energy and nutrients. Besides olive oil was a valuable commodity for cooking and for other uses. The olive trees also provided wood with many uses for building or firewood. The olive was fundamental to the Athenian economy and still is to Greek culture.
This story shows just how powerful and important food can be.
Nutritional Benefits of Olives
What makes olives an empowering eat? Olives are a signature part of a Mediterranean Diet. One of the olive or olive oils claims to fame is the mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Fats and oils are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. MUFAs are a healthy fat and it is encouraged that you try within the balance of fats to replace saturated fats and trans fats with MUFAs wherever possible. MUFAs are a healthy fat and have improved blood cholesterol levels. Olives and olive oil are sources of Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties. Olives are low in carbohydrates, making them a good food choice for anyone following a Keto Diet. Though they come with many nutrient benefits olives should be enjoyed in moderation given their high fat content and that they are relatively high in sodium.
Olive oil contains phytochemicals with antioxidant properties which may help protect against breast cancer, clogged arteries and high blood pressure.
Olives have many nutritional benefits, but they do have a high sodium content. Before using olives try to rinse and drain them to wash away the salty brine, they are preserved in. This will decrease their sodium content.
Did you Know?
The colour of an olive is because of it’s ripeness? Green olives are just less ripe than black olives which are fully ripe?
Top 10 Ways to Use Olives and Olive Oil
- Eat an olive all on its own as a snack.
- Sliced olives are a great addition to salads (Greek Salad of course!), sandwiches and wraps.
- Include olives as part of an antipasto tray.
- Add olives into a pasta dish to give it a Mediterranean flavour.
- Use olive oil as your main cooking oil – provided you do not cook at high temperatures.
- Choose olive oil as the oil in salad dressings and marinades.
- Have you ever tried olive bread? There are many different types of breads where olives are actually baked into the bread itself i.e. Focaccia.
- Incorporate olives into pilafs with rice or quinoa as a base and variety of vegetables.
- Try olive tapenade. Top fish or meat with an olive tapenade. An olive tapenade also makes a great spread for bread and you can serve this as an appetizer.
- Have some hummus! Olive oil is one of the staple ingredients in hummus and you can double it up by adding actual olives into your hummus and as a topping. They are a great ingredient to add a unique and distinctive flavour variation.