How many olive trees are there in Spain?
Rumor has it that the actual number is a bit less than the official number.
The story goes that when the Powers That Be came to the south of Spain to offer financial aid and general assistance to the olive growers, they first needed to determine how many trees each grower owned.
Each owner would take the official to the top of a hill and, waving their arms, would proclaim that all of the visible trees on all of the visible hills were his and claim the subsidies accordingly.
His neighbor would be one hilltop over, proclaiming the same thing.
There was a bit of overlap….
Regardless of who owns them, when you are in the olive growing regions of southern Spain all you see are olive groves, miles and miles and miles of them.
Spain has more olive trees and produces more olive oil than any other country in the world.
And they eat rather a lot of olives, as well.
Normally they are whole, but occasionally they'll be stuffed with anchovies or almonds; less commonly with pimiento.
In almost any bar or restaurant in Spain (and Andorra) the first thing that goes on the table, before your order is taken, is a bowl of olives.
Olive are picked in the fall and early winter. We were staying just outside of Jaen and they were harvesting black olives. After spreading a large cloth underneath the tree a machine would come along and shake the tree. The ripe olives fell off onto the cloth.
I was so dissillsioned…. Where's the romance in shaking a tree?
Olives are inedible fresh; they must be treated with lye and/or brined before they can be eaten. Additionally they can be marinated and flavored with herbs, spices and vinegars.
Olive are high in iron, vitamin E, copper, and heart-healthy mono-saturated fats.
If you are a reader of this blog, you know I have a fondness for olives. I put them in salads, use them as garnish for almost everything, and add them to pastas.
So do a lot of other people.
But I also cook with them.
Warm olives are wonderful; the heat brings out subtle flavors.
This warm Olive and Shallot Relish is great as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats and fish.
Or served on crostini with a slice of goat cheese.
Or mixed in with some lightly steamed green beans.
Or right off the spoon (wait, did I just type that??? I did admit to a fondness for olives, right?)
Olive and Shallot Relish
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tbs chopped dry Greek olives
3 tbs chopped green olives
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice
4 tbs white wine
Chop shallots and garlic. Heat oil in small nonstick skillet. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add fennel seeds and herbs and sauté 1 minute longer. Add olives, lemon and wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, put into a small serving bowl. Best served warm.
Did I mention this is my 500th post?
Who would have thought I would have that much to say…. (anyone who knows me…)