They’re small. They’re round. They come in green and black. They’re tasty treats. What are we talking about? Olives, of course!

Although they may seem like vegetables, olives are actually the small fruits of the olive tree. Olive trees have long been known as the immortal tree. They grow slowly and can bear fruit for hundreds of years. Over time, their trunks wither and shoots develop that will grow into a new tree.

Olive trees grow well in the coastal areas of the Mediterranean, southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. They’ve also been introduced to South America and California.

In the areas in which they grow, olives are a major agricultural crop. More than just a tasty treat, though, olives are primarily important as the source of olive oil.

Olives and olive oil have a long, storied history in western civilization. From the Odyssey to the Iliad and the Bible, the olive is cited frequently in western literature, dating back to ancient days.

The olive tree’s leafy branches were used thousands of years ago to crown the victors of contests and wars. They symbolized abundance, glory and peace. Some of them were even found in King Tut’s tomb!

Olive oil has been considered sacred by many people throughout history. The ancient Greeks used it to anoint kings and athletes. It was burned in the lamps of ancient temples. It even fueled the Olympic flame.

Olive trees have been grown for more than 7,000 years. Although they can be found all over the world today, most of the estimated 800 million olive trees in the world can be found in Mediterranean countries.

Olives are harvested from trees in many different ways. Machines are often used for olives that will be used to make olive oil. Table olives, however, are more difficult to harvest, since they must not be damaged. Table olives are often handpicked by workers with baskets.

The green and black table olives you might eat out of the jar or on a salad don’t taste that great straight from the tree. In their natural state, olives are quite bitter. To make them tastier, they are usually fermented or soaked in brine.

Olives can be made even tastier by soaking them in marinades of herbs, spices, lemon juice or vinegar. Olives are also often stuffed with other foods, such as feta cheese, pimento, garlic or anchovies.

Recently, scientists have learned that olives have health benefits that make them a good choice when you want a snack. In addition to good amounts of antioxidants, olives have also been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

66 Join the Discussion

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  1. YUMMY! I love to stick olives on my fingers and dip them them in ranch then eat them. Olives go a while back. Most of that stuff I have never ever known about olives. I learn something every day here!

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about Thanksgiving, Christmas, or shopping!

    • YUM, Wondergirl101! We are so excited that today’s Wonder is a favorite of yours! How cool that you learned something new about one of your favorite things to eat! :-)

  2. Most third graders do not like olives.

    Darrius thought olives were both a vegetable and a fruit because it tastes like a vegetable but they have juice in them like a fruit does.

    Serenity thinks that tomorrow’s Wonder will be about the beach. Janaya thinks it will about drums. Khaliya thinks it might be about the waterpark in summertime.

    • Not to worry, Wonder Friends, some of us at Wonderopolis are not huge fans of olives, either! However, we think Darrius has a great point! We were WONDERing about other kinds of fruits that are green or purple… can you guess which fruit we’re thinking of?

      Thank you so much for sharing your awesome ideas for tomorrow’s Wonder… it’s going to be a chilly one! :-)

  3. Our class is learning how to ask questions today. We had many questions after watching the Olive Baby video. Who is the Olive Baby? What did the Olive Baby do? Where was the Olive Baby? When did the Olive Baby put olives on her fingers? Why did the Olive Baby eat olives? How did the Olive Baby get in the seat?
    Thanks for the video!!!

    • WOW, we are so impressed with all the great questions from our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Utter’s class! WOHOO!

      We cannot take credit for today’s Wonder video, but our friend Daphne the baby sure loves her olives! We Wonder if you can answer some of your own questions using your WONDERful imagination! You all did a SUPER job of asking questions… way to go, Wonder Friends! :)

    • We appreciate your comment, Bryleigh! Although olives may not be your favorite, we are proud of you for WONDERing with us today! We like your description of what olives taste like to you, too! :)

    • Hi there Barbie Doll! We bet you and Daphne, from today’s video, would get along really well! She loves eating olives and enjoys sticking them on her fingers, too! Thanks for sharing your comment with us about one of your favorite things to eat– OLIVES! :)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment, Lauren! We are glad you WONDERed with us today, even if olives aren’t one of your favorite things to snack on! :)

    • Not to worry, Elijah! Quite a few friends at Wonderopolis aren’t big fans of olives, either! We’re glad you’ve been WONDERing with us today! :)

    • Hey there Wonder Friend Star! We like your style– a lot of our Wonder Friends are big fans of olives! It’s fun to learn about something you like to eat! We also must remember that everyone’s tastes are different, so it’s okay if some people prefer olives when others don’t! It’s fun to Wonder with you! :)

    • Hey there Andrew, Trevor and Shpresa! We think you are the new 3 Musketeers! None of you like olives but you’re banding together against the slippery, juicing fruit! Thanks for sharing your passion against olives, Wonder Friends! :)

    • We appreciate your opinion about olives, Martin! We’re sorry to hear that today’s Wonder wasn’t about a favorite food of yours… but we Wonder what food you LOVE to snack on? :)

    • You’re not alone, Eli! We have a lot of Wonder Friends who don’t like olives very much! Thanks for sharing your comment, Eli! :)

    • Thanks for letting us know, Gina M! A lot of our Wonder Friends are not big fans of olives, but the most important part is that you’re WONDERing! :)

    • Hey there Wonder Friend T! We’re glad that you’ve tried olives but we’re sorry to hear they make you feel sick to your stomach! That’s no fun! Good thing you know to stay away from those olives– they don’t get along with your stomach! Thanks for WONDERing with us! :)

  4. I might not like olives, but I know a place called olive garden. The place has pasta, pizza, and so many more, I been there a few times. And my favorite part is the bread waiting at your table! :-) :-) :-)

  5. I’m with you I hate olives too. Once when I was in sams they had olives so I tried one and there. Disgusting, with a capital D. The most interesting fact to me was olive oil was sacred to others.
    Sincerely Danielle :)
    ps. MY BIRTHDAY IS TODAY AND IM TURING 12 YEARS OLD! Wow 4 more years until I start driving.

    • Well happy birthday to you, Danielle!! We hope you’re having a WONDERful birthday!

      We’re glad that you tried the olives even if they’re not your favorites! :)

  6. I do not like olives because I never tried them because my whole family does not like them so we do not get or buy olives.

    • We Wonder if you’ll try olives one day, sadieorinko! We bet there are lots of other things that you like to snack on, too! We hope you have a SUPER day! :)

    • We’re glad you leaned something new about the fruit, Morgan! Thanks so much for letting us know how you feel about olives, too! :)

    • We think the man in the video is excellent at origami, don’t you agree, Emma? It takes a lot of practice to learn how to make beautiful origami creations, but it’s lots of fun! We Wonder if you have ever tried your hand at origami! :)

  7. Let’s do a flash mob it my library and SCREEEEEAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE JUSTIN BEIBER

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Mackenzie! We think flash mobs are fun– but they are better in a public place. The library is full of awesome people and resources, but many people go to the library to concentrate (because it’s so quiet). :)

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Aniyah! Olives are delicious! Some people enjoy stuffing olives with different cheeses… like bleu cheese. Others prefer to eat them on their own- plain and simple! :)

    • ALRIGHT, we like your enthusiasm, Jayden! Thanks for sharing your comment with us… we are glad to know you’re enjoying some olives today! :)

  8. I love olives just about as much as I love books… I love eating olives with Greek food, the are so delicious…. olives are the best snack for me! :)

    • We have a lot in common, Coco! Some of us here at Wonderopolis go bananas over olives! :) We Wonder if you have ever read a book about Greece, olives, or Greek food? We think it would be cool to prepare a meal with the help of your family or friends from a Greek cookbook! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do you like olives?
  • Are olives fruits or vegetables?
  • Are olives naturally tasty?

Wonder Gallery

OlivesVimeo Video

Try It Out

So do you like olives? You never know until you try them! Check out the recipes below and pick one or two to try at home. Get a friend or family member to help you. You may need to make a quick trip to the store before you get started.

When you’ve tried a recipe or two, let us know whether you like olives or not. Share your experiences — or a favorite recipe, if you have one — with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. We can’t wait to hear what you think about olives!

Still Wondering

If cars could run on olive oil, we probably would have fewer environmental problems! Check out National Geographic Xpeditions’ Oil Spills student interactive to learn about the environmental impact and effect oil spills have on birds.

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