The History of Olives

As legend has it…

the Greek goddess Athena bequeathed the ancient Greeks with the olive tree. Olives have been and might continue to be an essential and intrinsic part of the lives of most people in the Mediterranean regions. The olive is a species of a fairly small tree in the family Oleaceae. Some plants that belong in the same family are lilacs, jasmine, Forsythia, and Fraxinus. The name “olive” was derived from the Latin term “oliva” which is “elaia” in Greek. This tree is a native to the Mediterranean basin especially to the coastal areas. The fruit it bears, which is also called olive, has been an immensely important agricultural product in the Mediterranean regions and even to the rest of the countries around the world.  Olive trees are primarily grown for the production of olive oil, fine wood, olive leaf, and the fruit itself. Ancient proof for its domestication can be dated back from the Chalcolithic period in what is presently called Jordan. In ancient times, they had always believed that these trees grow suitably well in places close to the sea. However, present experiences do not absolutely confirm such a claim as they are now cultivated in further inland areas with climates perfect for the tree to develop. Foreign regions such as in South Africa, Chile, Peru, California, Australia, and many other areas with temperate climates have catered a large amount of the overall production of this tree. These places are deemed to acquire Mediterranean climates suitable for the development and growth of Olive trees.

For the most part, the oil produced from the fruit (olive oil) has gained a great deal of attention in the culinary industry and even as a “super food.” Its whole fruit, on the other hand, has proven itself noteworthy as a great addition to a wide array of dishes and as a health protective fruit. Modern studies have evidently shown health benefits from the consumption of olives. It is now even viewed as a renewable source of energy. There are quite a plethora of cultivars of the olive tree. In Italy, for instance, there are approximately 300 identified cultivars. Some varieties can be eaten directly after picking, yet most olives undergo special processing to trim down their natural bitterness. These methods differ according to the variety of the olive, the region in which it is grown, and the preferred taste, texture and color of the resulting product. An olive’s color isn’t necessarily relative to the degree of its maturity. In California, for instance, their olives are commonly green in color, though once cured using lye, and after oxidation, they achieve a black surface color. Processing methods that are typically revered include the use
of water, brine, and lye for curing.

Olives are used in many dishes due to their mild tart and delicate flavor. They are usually pitted (the pit is removed) before served and included in a variety of appetizing cuisines. To pit the olives, they are basically pressed to slightly break the flesh to make the seed easier to remove. Incorporating these delicious delights in tapenades is a very popular way of enjoying them. Olive tapenades are ideally perfect as a dip, spread, and toppings. Whatever kind of salad or appetizer you have in mind is never complete without this rich relish.

 *photo curteosy of big_ra
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