Ted it’s been ages since you've been to Borough Market – go immediately and report back on a stall holder that you've badgered, sorry we mean chatted to. So ... I forced myself to head down to foodie paradise to chat and sample quite a few goodies including the best doughnut in the UK apparently.
Many of the stalls and their holders have been around for ages and have really interesting stories. The one I honed in on today certainly fits that bill – The Fresh Olive Company. It’s a nice story actually, about two friends Adam and George who met at school 32 years ago and in 1991 (presumably with at least one of them in possession of a driving license) they started ferrying olives from the markets of Provence in southern France in an old van back to the eager arms of chefs and deli's in London.
They are still business partners today running both The Fresh Olive Company market stall and also Belazu, it’s more commercial spin off that supplies a range of (delicious) mediterranean products to supermarkets and stores. Belazu foundation also supports initiatives like building schools in the Atlas Mountains in Turkey where they source products (I love it when companies really do walk the talk). Olives have been cultivated for at least 5000 years (we just know this ok!) Though how we ever figured out how to render them edible is a testament to the human trait of perseverance if you ask me. Olives contain a phenolic compound called oleuropein which is very bitter and unpalatable which explains why the crops don’t need protection from birds when growing and ripening. The oleuropein has to be removed before the olives are desirable and fit for human consumption.
The most common way of preparing the olives is the “Spanish method” of first soaking the olives in a lye solution and then transferring them to a brine for fermentation. The Spanish have had plenty of practice as they produce almost 40% of the 20 million tonnes of olives grown annually. I suspect that there would be no need for anyone in Spain to be converted to liking olives, but this is clearly not so everywhere as the FOC sign testifies. Not that you have to worry about any of this when you buy your olives from FOC, they are all there ready for you to pick up and take home to enjoy – varieties of plain green or black as well as the freshly aromatised range, like lemon and thyme or garlic and red pepper or simply add to (this summer’s hot drink I'm told) a martini anyone?