The annual olive harvest is here in the Middle East again. For people living in Mediterranean and Middle East olive producing countries, they can enjoy pickling their own olives due to the proliferation of olive trees in these locations. Here in Israel where I love, many private and public gardens and parks have olive trees growing in them; making olives available to anyone taking the time to pick them during the annual autumn olive season.
In a previous Green Prophet article about preserving olives, I explored how easy home picked olives are easy to pickle and are usually ready to eat after being stored in pickling brine for at least two to three months. After doing this for several years, I have found that one can experiment using various spices in their pickling ingredients that include rosemary, thyme, black peppercorns, cayenne peppers (to give the olives a “kick”) and bay leaves.
The most common types of olives available in my neighborhood are the narrow and pointed Syrian olives and the larger, egg shaped Mazanillo olives. These are some of the best olive groves are in the Galilee Region of Israel and on the West Bank; although there are a lot of political issues over Palestinian olive groves getting damaged and even cut off by the separation barrier erected by Israel.
Although it is possible to mix these two olive species when pickling, it is not recommended to do so as each species has a different flavor with the Syrian ones being more bitter. With the Syrian olives, unless you like their bitter taste, it is recommended to “crack” them by opening them with a wooden mallet which allows the pickling brine to remove the bitter taste. With both olive species, soaking them daily in fresh water for at least two weeks prior to pickling is a must as well.
In previous Green Prophet articles it was reported about threats to Mid East olive growers and suppliers due to falling olive oil prices ; partially due to heavy subsidizing by several European Union countries.
While I haven’t yet tried to make my own olive oil, there are recipes for doing this on the internet. But with olive oil prices being so low, as previously mentioned, excellent varieties of locally produced virgin olive oils are readily available at attractive prices.
My recommendation is not to be tempted to purchase olive oils from countries like Italy and Spain, which are “dumping” their products in many countries, including the Middle East. It’s obviously better to support local growers and producers and not those elsewhere.
Read more on olives and olive related issues in the Middle East:
Israel’s Separation Barrier Could Disrupt Ancient Way of Farming Since Roman Times
Cheap Olive Oil Threatens to Destroy Mid East Growers and Suppliers
Preserving Olives the Green Prophet Way
Picking Olives for Pickling