'Children crave olives - they need the fatty acids. Their brains are growing'

The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet are widely extolled and olives, along with olive oil, play a central role.

On Weekend Breakfast, Refiloe Mpakanyane finds out more from olive expert Fotini Balassis, who owns speciality Greek deli _Olive You _in Edenvale.

Balassis says olives are being grown more and more in South Africa because they are hardy and suited to the local climate.

Extolling the fruit's health benefits, she says children often run spontaneously to their tasting table and - to the parents' surprise - fill up on a delicacy they don't really get at home.

I say it's normal. Their brains are growing; they need the fatty acids. They crave them and they are drawn to olives magnetically.

Fotini Balassis, Owner - Olive You

Sometimes you eat food today that you don't recognise - it looks like plastic. An olive is an olive. I would say that you should eat something that is recognisable in its original state and olives have been exactly the same for thousands of years.

Fotini Balassis, Owner - Olive You

We've got olive trees that are 3,000 year old in Crete that still produce olives... olive trees in Lebanon that are 5-6,000 years old that still produce olives.

Fotini Balassis, Owner - Olive You

When buying olive oil says Balassis, always choose an extra-virgin cold pressed oil, preferably from a small producer.

I prefer small farms. When something is mass-produced there's no way you can keep the quality.

Fotini Balassis, Owner - Olive You

What make an extra-virgin olive oil extra-virgin, is it has to be picked off the tree immediately and pressed as quickly as possible... under cold conditions... As you pick a fruit, obviously it starts to decompose.

Fotini Balassis, Owner - Olive You

For more advice on selecting an olive oil, take a listen:


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