In Provence, the olive tree and its fruit are associated with sunny days, cicadas and Mediterranean foods. And, for many people the olive tree is symbolic of Provence, representing strength, longevity, friendship and peace.
Let’s Talk About French Olives and Tapenade! For Jackdaw Journeys our interest in the olive tree and its fruit is directly related to its prominent role in French cuisine. Visit any French market in Provence and you will find baskets and baskets of local olives for sale. You will see so many varieties at the markets, some green, some black with wrinkles and many will be marinated with different peppers and herbs. However, this is just a sampling – there are over a 100 different varieties of olives grown in France!
Due to its ideal climate and soil, the most productive area for olives to be grown is in the southern region of Provence. It is not surprising to find trees that are hundreds of years old. The olives are differentiated according to the varieties of the trees and while you can find them all year round in Provence, the harvest takes place in November and December, following the wine harvest. The harvest is focused on the color of the olive in question, with green olives being picked at the beginning of harvest season, and black olives being picked later in December.
Harvesting can be done several different ways including:
- the traditional method of climbing the trees with buckets and hand picking the fruit
- using a cloth or net placed under the olive tree after which the tree is shaken causing the fruit to fall in the nets
- the modern day method of using machines is increasingly being used today to harvest the olives
They’re Good for You!
We all know that olives are good for our health. They contain antioxidants, monounsaturated fatty acids and they are high in vitamin E, and many people believe that olives may slow the aging process and help lower cholesterol. Regardless of the health benefits of olives, it’s their flavor that we’re drawn to! There are literally hundreds of French recipes to experiment with using different varieties of olives. Jackdaw Journeys is happy to share a quick and easy recipe of Olive Tapenade. A tapenade is the Provençal name for a spread or condiment consisting of black or green olives, capers, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Enjoy!
Easy French Olive Tapenade
Prep time: 5 minutes
1 1/2 cup pitted brine-cured black olives
1 tablespoon anchovy paste or 2 minced anchovy filets
3 tablespoons capers (rinsed)
1 1/2 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves of minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup of good olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, as needed
- Blend all ingredients (except olive oil) in a food processor, pulsing only 2-3 times until coarsely chopped.
- Once chopped, slowly drizzle in olive oil and pulse a few more times until a chunky paste is formed.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve at room temperature with a fresh baguette or crackers of your choice.
- Tapenade may be stored in a refrigerator for up to five days in a closed container.