The small oval fruit of the olive tree, widely cultivated in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece. Olives are harvested and preserved in oil or brine at various stages of their development. The early olives are green, while the later, more mature olives are black, but there are hundreds of varieties and more shades of colour in between.
Kalamata olives are rich purple, almond-shaped olives grown in southern Greece; Spanish green olives have a milder flavour but because of their large size, they are often stuffed with anchovies or almonds. Experiment with different varieties until you find a favourite.
The fleshy pulp of the fruit is also the source of olive oil. The whole fruit is available in a variety of guises: flavoured, stuffed, stoned or with stones, in oil or in brine, sliced or whole. They’re used a great deal in Mediterranean cuisine, as hors d’oeuvres, in salads, stuffings, sauces or dips such as tapenade and as an ingredient in main dishes.