Olives, the star of the show at the medina in Fez
Unto Fez a star is born and this star has kept its glow for centuries. Everywhere you go to in the medina (old city centre) you will find delicately constructed mounds of olives. Olives were brought over to Fez as well as other Moroccan cities like Marrakesh, Casablanca and Mekness centuries ago by Greeks. Now they are Morocco’s main appetiser and are usually served with herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme.
Strangely enough we first had olives as an appetiser about three days into our trip to Fez. It came in arguably the most traditional restaurant we visited. They were sweet and delicious and filled in nicely as we waited for our starter. I have to admit there are some olives I don’t like and as olives come in a variety of tastes I have to make sure I always get the sweet tasting ones. I don’t do bitter, sour and salty olives. For some, the sheer variety in tastes makes olives an incredibly important ingredient in any cook’s armoury.
I knew I had to explore more after that lunch. That exploration led us to a randomly picked store near the Blue Gate run by Iddris. Iddris’ store had it all. some of his olives were green, some were black, some were pitted, and some were stuffed. We must have chosen well. There were hordes of tourists busy capturing the artistic olive presentation at Iddris’ as we approached.
Iddris was super. We bought a variety of olives. He had a large bowl of harissa, the hot chilli paste so popular in the North Africa and the Middle East on hand for me to taste too.
Now most people would probably not know this but olives do not come in different colours from “birth”. Ripeness determines the colour of an olive. Green olives ripen and change slowly into light brown, to a dazzling red and purple, to the deepest, darkest black.
Generally olives aren’t just appetisers either. They can be ground into spreads, used in a salad medley, slow cooked in stews and sauces or eaten as an appetiser as we mostly did in Fez.