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What is antipasto

In the Italian cuisine is an appetizer, typically served as the first dish and consisting of olives, anchovies, cheeses, cured meats and marinated vegetables, such as peppers, artichokes. Bread or bruschetta can be accompaniments to antipasto.

Snack olives as antipasto

Snack olives are a traditional food in all regions of the Mediterranean basin,  each region has developed over the years some recipes to enrich the taste of preserved olives.

Olives, unlike other fruits cannot be eaten freshly picked due to a substance that makes them very bitter -  oleuropein. The concentration of this substance decreases with the progress of maturation. For this reason, the processes of production of snack olives seek to eliminate or reduce as much as possible the bitter taste of the fruit.

To make olives edible, it is necessary to immerse them in water and salt. Some recipes also include the use of herbs (fennel, thyme, etc.) which, in addition to giving the characteristic flavor of the olives, with their essential oils promote the natural conservation. Regardless of the technique used, the process involves diving olives in salt solutions that, in turn, cause the loss of water-soluble components, including oleuropein. The olives are left to rest in brine for a period ranging from 3 to 10 months.

Green olives are harvested immature, between September and October. Black olives can be produced from green olives after blackening with alkaline solutions or naturally ripe olives, harvested between November and December.

In Italy there are about 30 different varieties of cultivated olives; among the best known Nocellara del Belice, taggiascathe Ligurian and Bella Daunia (also called Bella di Cerignola), olives that have been awarded the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

Olives and the olive tree

The olive is the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea). The olive tree is one of the oldest fruit trees and strongly rooted in Mediterranean culture: more than 5,000 years ago this plant was already present in Iran and Mesopotamia and has become widespread in Syria, Palestine, and later on all the coasts of the Mediterranean.

Thanks to the Phoenicians, the olive tree has arrived in Greece: here the oil was mainly used as a therapeutic substance and for lighting. The Romans were the first to use olive oil as food. With the discovery of the new world, the olive tree has also been introduced in America but the spread of this plant was limited, for climate reasons to territories like Chile, Argentina and California.

The color is olive green initially, with the ripening olives assumes different colors which vary from pink to purple to black. The average weight of the olives olives varies from  0.05oz to 0.4oz   (1.5 g - 12g). The average length is between 0.4” to 1.2” (1cm - 3 cm), while the diameter varies from 0.4” to 0.8”  (1cm - 2cm), depending on the quality.

The olives, unlike other fruits, have a high fat content, which increases with the ripening process. The ripe olives, darker, contain higher concentrations of fat compared to olive green, more immature.

The two products that are obtained from the olives - the olive oil and the snack olives, great as antipasto.

Olives producing countries

Other important areas for the production of olives are Spain and Greece. The Spanish olives are the most well-known hojiblanca, the manzanilla and gordal Sevillana, while among the Greek olives are Kalamata olives.

Olives nutritional value

Snack olives are a food with exceptional nutritional value. The fat part is the most abundant component of the olive, the predominant fatty acid is the type of monounsaturated oleic acid.

The carbohydrate content in the olives is less than any other edible fruit. Snack olives have even lower concentrations of carbohydrates because during the process of fermentation or pickling microorganisms present in the brine consume the sugars. As a result, in snack olives sugar is virtually absent.

Snack olives, regardless of the plant and the commercial variety, are a good source of dietary fiber that has a high rate of digestibility.

The olives are rich in tocopherols and tocotrienols, substances known to play a decisive role in the antioxidant mechanisms of the human body.