olives ain’t olives

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I didn’t get caught up the recent Australian food debacles: recall of Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s frozen berries from China putting consumers at risk of contracting Hepatitis A; nor the John Bull tinned tuna imported from Thailand linked with suspected Scromboid poisoning.

I’ve seen recent comments on social media such as Definitely worth reminding ourselves…Aussie barcode is 93. However a quick Google search clears that up… “The first two or three digits of an EAN-13 barcode identify the country in which the manufacturer’s identification code was assigned. They do not necessarily indicate the country in which the goods were manufactured”. Nor does it necessarily indicate the country origin for the ingredients. Australia’s barcode begins with a 93 but it’s no guarantee the product is Australian sourced.

When I couldn’t purchase fresh local berries I’d been buying frozen but because of an earlier recall I switched last year to Omaha organic blueberries grown in New Zealand. Scattering a small handful of berries into yoghurt each weekday means they last months. Tuna & salad from home has long been my standby work-day lunch but after the usual supermarket tinned tuna offerings began to smell like cat food I changed to Good Fish Tuna in Olive Oil. It’s pricey so I restrict myself to one tin per week and split it over 2 days, supplementing with tofu, goats cheese, nuts, olives…

From left to right: Good – Best – Read The Label

Do you prefer black or green olives? At Chez EllaDee & the G.O. any olive is a good olive. We love them: black, green, Kalamata, Spanish, pitted, stuffed, organic… We eat them alone, with cheese, in salad, in casseroles & pasta, on pizza. We buy them in tubs, jars and loose.

My latest food revelation was about olives. I’ve far too had many of these revelations… because I assume everyone has my best interests at heart. They don’t. Assumptions are the boon of food manufacturers and marketers who want to influence our purchases.

There was a recent SMH newspaper article Things you didn’t know about your food I just had to read.

“Black olives aren’t ripened the way you think
Black and green olives aren’t different varieties. Green olives are the more unripe version of black olives. Olives can age on the tree, and will shrink and become darker, however commercially produced olives are not harvested like that. Instead they are picked green, treated with caustic soda and spun in oxidised water to speed ripening. Once they’re shiny and black, a black substance called ferrous gluconate is added to make sure they stay that way.”

Curious, I began reading olive jar labels at the local supermarkets. They are reminiscent of the Castrol GTX advertisement of the 70 & 80’s promoting ‘man made’ synthetic motor oils…The tag line “oils ain’t oils, Sol” has become part of the Australian vernacular. Fine for motor oils, not for olives.

Turns out one of our go-to salad olive selections [on the right in the photo above] are that lovely shade of green courtesy of food colouring… well of course now I see it now but I trusted they were natural… how naive did I feel!

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

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40 thoughts on “olives ain’t olives

    mybrightlife said:
    March 17, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Oh boy! Big olive fans this side too! Lots of olive label reading to do…thanks for the heads up!

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 17, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      I think there are still a lot of good olives around… but who knew! Not me, I didn’t think it was something that needed mucking around with…

      Like

    roughseasinthemed said:
    March 17, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I knew how they ended up dark after years of wandering up the olive groves above us (now fenced off :()

    My eye was immediately drawn to the kalamata ones. We usually have a jar in too, not organic though, sadly.

    And, what better than a whole jar of green ones from my ever generous neighbours. Hand picked and totally au naturale?

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 17, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      Nothing better than hand picked au naturale olives from the neighbours… oh how I wish for that 🙂 I love green olives, lovely and bitter.

      Like

    memoirsofahusk said:
    March 17, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Oh yuk! I knew some black olives were just coloured green ones but – bleah! Thanks for this – I think … 😦

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 18, 2015 at 6:12 am

      Bleah! sums it up 🙂 On the upside, since I’ve been paying attention I have found some GREAT olives.

      Like

    katechiconi said:
    March 18, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Now I’m feeling a bit mournful about the big black Spanish olives I took for granted when my father lived in Spain, and the home grown jobs were plonked on the table with the bread and thinly sliced chorizo as the appetiser in little local cafes… All gone, and I didn’t appreciate them properly when I had the real thing!

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 18, 2015 at 6:21 am

      Those olives, and the rest! sound wonderful – yum. I hadn’t fully appreciated the olive offerings at the farmers markets, humming and hashing over the price… Now I search them out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    Gerlinde @ sunnycovechef said:
    March 18, 2015 at 12:59 am

    Thanks EllaDee for the info. It is amazing what is being added to our food these days . My neighbor cures his own green olives and likes to share them with me. If you lived closer I would share them with you.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 18, 2015 at 6:23 am

      What a lovely generous thought from your neighbour and you – thank you 🙂 I’m no longer taking olives for granted, it’s worth seeking our the good ones.

      Like

    sue marquis bishop said:
    March 18, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Even when we try to buy healthy and eat healthy it is soooo difficult to sort out the good from the doctored. Your post is a good reminder to keep paying attention. Sue
    Women livinglifeafter50.com

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      The labelling was accurate, that the olives were artificially coloured never occurred to me! I have to remind myself to pay attention 🙂

      Like

    ardysez said:
    March 18, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    We have allowed ourselves to become complacent, and spoiled about all the foods at our fingertips. This is a good reminder, Dale, thanks for posting. I, too, found out that the bar code does not tell us the origin of the product, and more’s the pity. It’s a minefield out there!

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 18, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      I wish we could go back to less choices rather than a smoke and mirrors global food industry.

      Like

        ardysez said:
        March 19, 2015 at 1:26 pm

        I completely agree with you Dale. I feel like entering the grocery store with blinders on, so I can stay focused on the ‘good stuff’. I have just copied your info about the black olives to send to my daughter, who has no time to read much these days, but is trying to sort out food priorities after a nasty case of food poisoning a few weeks ago. I have also just checked my Macro Organic Kalamata Olives from Woolies, and supposedly they are a product of Greece, packed by Woolworths, but I wonder about the caustic processing to make them black. I will see if I can source anything more specific next time. Thank you again for helping us.

        Like

          EllaDee responded:
          March 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

          I buy the Macro Organic Olives from Woolies as well. Yet another link (worth reading) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=46 states possible good news “Kalamata olives are one olive variety that deserves special mention. Authentic Kalamata olives come from Kalamon olive trees in southern Greece and get their name from Kalamata, their city of origin. European Union (EU) law provides Kalamata olives with Protected Geographical Status and Protected Designation of Origin and does not allow product labeling as “Kalamata” unless the olives have come from this specific area. However, outside of the European Union countries, there are no binding legal standards for labeling of Kalamata olives.”

          Like

    sara said:
    March 18, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Argh! Awful olive producers! Why? My partner manages a farm with 2500 olives on them amongst other things…and it’s harvest time. Now they are beautiful hand picked tree ripened olives, the real deal. I know what I prefer.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 19, 2015 at 6:32 am

      Why indeed… Another Big Food Fail. The good news is the more we gain in awareness the better it is for producers of good food as we recognize and reward their efforts. Oh, yes, the real deal 🙂

      Like

      ardysez said:
      March 19, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      Are you in Australia and can we buy his olives?

      Liked by 2 people

    Bill said:
    March 18, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Cherie sometimes tells people, “I can ruin your food.” Meaning, she can probably tell you things about what you’re eating that will cause you not to eat it again.

    I did not know that about olives. Sigh.

    Saw a good film last night: Fresh. If it’s available there, I recommend it.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 19, 2015 at 6:41 am

      Yep, sigh. Maybe you can grow olives. I’m going to see if can find space for a couple of trees.
      It annoys me to no end that I need to be so vigilant but I can live with my food assumptions being ruined when it results in me making better choices… and in the long run my food is improving… by my own hands.
      I hadn’t heard of the Fresh movie but I’ve joined their site, and will keep an eye out for it – thank you 🙂

      Like

    Glenda said:
    March 19, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Hi Ella, Manufactured food is everywhere. You should put in an olive tree (or 3) at Taylor Arms. You won’t regret it. I stopped buying, what I thought were Australian pickled onions, when I found out they were ‘made’ in India. Can you believe it.? I pickle my own now.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 19, 2015 at 6:47 am

      Oh of course, it’s not like we don’t have onions in Australia nor processing facilities… It makes me so mad 😦 Good suggestion about putting in olive trees, we will scout out a spot I think. It seems once we quit the city and have space & time I will be extending my DIY efforts further. I can trade some time spent doing research on the ‘net for time in the kitchen and garden… far more productive and less disappointing!

      Like

        Glenda said:
        March 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

        Ella, three trees and you will have enough olives and oil to last you a year. I guarantee it:)

        Liked by 1 person

    Lori D said:
    March 19, 2015 at 2:22 am

    It so hard to make sure we aren’t poisoned by food these days.

    I LOVE all olives. My favorite are the bitter Greek green olives. I like them so much, that I just drafted a blog for a Chicken recipe that includes those Greek olives. It won’t go up for a couple of weeks yet though. I also like Kalamata olives. Ooh, now I want to eat olives.

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 19, 2015 at 7:28 am

      There is such an emphasis in the media on health, fitness and food but many big food companies are using this for their own benefit & profit recognizing the opportunities to influence rather than deliver. Sadly they can’t be trusted.
      Me too – lovely green salty bitter olives 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    acflory said:
    March 19, 2015 at 7:47 am

    When it comes to fruit and [most] veg we try to eat only what’s in season so the frozen berries was not an issue for us, but like you and the G.O., the Daughter and I love olives. That awful stuff you wrote about black olives – does it apply to Kalamata olives as well?

    Like

      acflory said:
      March 19, 2015 at 7:49 am

      p.s. the free trade agreement the media has been talking about could make it impossible for our food to be labelled with country of origin because it might be seen as reducing the profits of the companies from those countries… or something. Clear as mud but a worry nonetheless.

      Like

        EllaDee responded:
        March 19, 2015 at 11:59 am

        I’m skeptical of rules & regulations… they just seem to provide a framework for the big food companies and representative industry bodies to circumvent!
        From my Google research I found “Kalamata olives are cured using red wine vinegar or red wine to give them their distinctive flavor.”
        Links:
        http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodtip&dbid=149
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive
        From the link to The Voluntary Industry Standard for Table Olives in Australia https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/12-111 states “2.3. Trade preparations
        2.3.1. The bitterness of the olives may be removed by alkaline treatment (lye-treated olives), by
        immersion in a liquid to dilute the bitter compound (soaking method), dehydration (heart or salt) or by
        biological processes (fermentation). The product so obtained may be preserved in brine according to
        its specific characteristics, in dry salt, in a modified atmosphere, by heat treatment, by preservatives,
        by acidifying agents, or by other means.”
        As lye is used as process rather than ingredient it wouldn’t be listed on ingredient label.
        I’m now buying organic or olives from farmers markets. If I was to buy otherwise I’d look at where they are from and how much they cost plus label ingredients as indicators.
        All I can say is I’m sorry to be the bearer of potentially bad news…

        Like

          acflory said:
          March 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm

          Gah….red wine I’d be happy with. Lye? -gag-

          Thanks for the links EllaD. We’ve been going as organic, or at least unprocessed as possible but keep coming up against reality, as with olives. 😦

          Like

    The False Prophet said:
    March 20, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Your love for olives reminded me of Sam … who did not like green eggs and ham. Keep on blogging in a free world – The False Prophet

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 21, 2015 at 6:25 am

      In the end Sam did like green eggs and ham! Forever more for me the quest for Good Olives will continue 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        The False Prophet said:
        March 21, 2015 at 8:14 am

        Good luck on that quest. Sounds like you’re looking for the holy grail.

        Like

    Weekly Inspiration #38 | The Practical Mystic said:
    March 21, 2015 at 7:08 am

    […] make sure they stay that way.” SMH article: Things You Didn’t Know About Your Food. Thanks EllaDee for sharing that […]

    Like

    Kourtney Heintz said:
    March 25, 2015 at 5:22 am

    I love the really salty reddish brown olives. The green ones are good too. The black ones never taste as good as those do. Now I know why. 🙂

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      March 25, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Interesting that, I’m not a fan of black olives either not even the organic one I bought last week. Sometimes it quite astonishes me how man olives we get through in a week. We sometimes go to a place that sells fresh olives in small or large tubs, we don’t even have to confer any more, we just go for the large!

      Like

    Miss Food Fairy said:
    April 3, 2015 at 10:25 am

    WOW! I never knew this about olives! Thank you for pointing this out to me. I will be sure to check all my olive labels going forward. I can’t believe that this is happening in our food industry 😦 It’s time to go back to basics and the farmers markets and the good old veggie patch in the backyard – grow your own when you can I say 🙂 New fan via #IMK

    Like

      EllaDee responded:
      April 8, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Thank you 🙂 Unfortunately label reading is de rigeur… assume nothing! Farmers markets as well as being practical are enjoyable… a far better way to spend time on Saturday morning than shopping trolley-supermarket-car park…

      Like

    […] loves olives.  They’re one of her favorite foods. When I read Ella Dee’s recent post about olives I sent it to Cherie with a note: “I can ruin your food for […]

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