The Olive, History and Production
The Olive tree dates back to early ancient times in both biblical and classical
writings. In these early writings, the olive oil is referenced as a symbol of
both goodness and purity, and the tree represents peace and happiness.
In ancient times, the oil was also burnt in sacred lamps at temples during
the Olympic Games, and the victor was crowned with its leaves.
Olives have been cultivated since prehistoric times in Asia Minor. Today
olives are commercially produced in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia,
Morocco, Turkey, Portugal, China, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Angola, South
Africa, Uruguay, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, and California. The
Mediterranean area produces 93% of the olive production. Currently there
are some 800 million olive trees being cultivated. California is the only
state where olives are grown commercially. Over 90% of the olive
production is used to make olive oil.
The Olive tree is considered an evergreen tree. These trees can live to be
over 2,000 years old. They grow 20-40 feet high and begin to bear fruit
between 4 and 8 years old. The tree blooms with small whitish flowers and
have a wonderful fragrant.
A Franciscan missionary planted the first olive tree in California in 1769 at a
Franciscan mission in San Diego. The olives grown in California are called
¡°mission olives¡±. Of all the species of olives, this olive is especially good for
Olives are not edible, green, or ripe, and must be treated with lye and/or
cured in brine or dry salt before being edible. They contain about 20% oil.
Olives must be processed to remove the bitter glycoside oleuropein, before
they are edible, so they are usually first treated with lye and then pickled.
Greek olives are not treated with lye. They are strong tasting because
they are just packed in dry salt, or pickled in brine for 6 to 12 months
(where they undergo a process of lactic fermentation), and finally packed in
Spanish green olives are picked before they are ripe, treated with lye, and
then placed in a brine and allowed to ferment.
California olives are treated to set the pigment, treated with lye and then
packed immediately in brine and sterilized. They do not undergo the
fermentation process, and the sterilization ‘cooks’ them. This lack of
fermentation and the ‘cooking’ when they are sterilized produces a bland,
Ten medium size black olives have 50 calories and 4 grams of fat.
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the olive history and production