Recipe – Greens and Olives

Choose Your Olive Wisely

Olives and olive oil were not only an important component of the ancient Mediterranean diet, but also one of the most successful industries in antiquity. The olive also came to have a wider cultural significance, most famously as a branch of peace and as the victor’s crown in the ancient Olympic Games.

Although oil was a common product, it was not necessarily a cheap one and there were different grades of quality.

“Traditional fermentation is a slow process caused by the action of yeast and bacteria, and it produces a food that is brimming with healthy compounds and active cultures that are good for you. But in today’s ‘faster is better’ world, olives are much more likely to be treated with lye to remove the bitterness, then packed in salt and canned. ‘Processed’ olives are those that have been through a lye bath; the more ‘old-fashioned’ (and way better) method is to cure them in oil, brine, water, or salt. Those are known as ‘oil-cured,’ ‘brine-cured,’ ‘water-cured,’ or ‘dry-salted’ olives. …

“Olives and their oils contain a host of beneficial plant compounds, including tocopherols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, sterols, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are probably what give olives their taste; the polyphenols from olives have anti-inflammatory activity, improve immune function, help prevent damage to DNA, and protect the cardiovascular system. …

“The fat in olives (and olive oil) is largely the mono-unsaturated fat oleic acid, which has been associated with higher levels of protective HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A number of studies have shown that people who get plenty of mono-unsaturated fat are less likely to die of heart disease.” The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S., 232.

Recipe – Greens and Olives


4 garlic cloves, sliced or chopped

8-10 cups torn/chopped mixed greens such as chard, kale, turnip greens, etc.

½ cup or more olives, cut in half

2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice, or more

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

salt, to taste


Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add pepper flakes, if using. Cook and stir another minute. Add greens a handful at a time, tossing until wilted between additions; season with salt and cook until all greens are wilted and softened, about 3 or more minutes longer. Add olives and lemon juice and toss to combine; season with more lemon juice or salt, if desired.