Tasty Olives and Umami
What makes olives taste so good, so meaty and savory?
Part of it is terroir – the soil in which the trees grow, how much rainfall they get, how
much sun and how strong it is, and which way the Mediterranean winds are blowing.
Part of it is at what stage of growth the olives are harvested, whether they are green or
black. Part of it is how they are processed, and how quickly they are processed after they
are picked. All of these are crucial to making delicious olives.
But there’s something else.
Olives are an umami-rich food. Umami is sometimes called the fifth taste. It’s an addition
to the traditional sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami is a Japanese word that translates
to “savory” or “delicious”. Many other foods in Italian cuisine are rich in umami, too: Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, garlic, anchovies, and
mushrooms. Maybe that’s why, when you eat real Italian food, you feel like you’re eating
something real and tasty. And healthy.