Olive oil has been at the core of Mediterranean food and culture for thousands of years. Olive trees appeared in Eastern Mediterranean farming more than 6000 years ago with roots back to ancient Palestine, Crete and Egypt.
In ancient Greece, the olive tree was a subject of mythology and the olive branch became a symbol of peace, while at the same time olive oil became well-regarded for its apparent health and healing properties, for use in food as well as in skin-care, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Perhaps this is why olive oil has sometimes been called “liquid gold” and the “Elixir of the Gods”.
It is believed that the olive tree was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Phoenicians and the Greeks, but it was subsequently the Romans who expanded the cultivation and production methods greatly. Olive oil from Hispania gained a reputation for superior quality throughout the Roman Empire. The influence of Arab peoples in Spain led to further improvements in olive oil production techniques, and interestingly the Spanish word for oil, aceite, stems from the Arabic al-zat, or olive juice.
Olive oil is the oldest edible oil and still one of the most important parts of the Mediterranean diet today.
The olive tree history has a deep and amazing footprint throughout history in many countries. The origin of the olive tree is lost in time, coinciding and mingling with the expansion of the Mediterranean civilisations. Fossils of the olive trees have been found in Italy to Spain to North Africa
- The wild olive tree originated in Asia Minor where it was extremely abundant and grew in thick forests (6 millennia ago)
- Its cultivation developed in Syria and Palestine before spreading to islands of Cyprus and Crete to Egypt
- In the 16th century BC, the Phoenicians started disseminating the olive throughout the Greek isles, later introducing it to the Greek mainland between the 14th and 12th centuries BC where its cultivation increased
- From the 6th century BC onwards, the olive spread throughout the Mediterranean countries reaching Tripoli, Tunis and the island of Sicily. From there, it moved to southern Italy.
- Oil production in the Eastern Mediterranean can be traced to archives of the ancient city-state Ebla (2600–2240 BC), which were located on the outskirts of the Syrian city Aleppo.
- Olive growing was introduced into Spain during the maritime domination of the Phoenicians (1050 BC) but did not develop to a noteworthy extent until the arrival of Scipio (212 BC) and Roman rule (45 BC).
- Olive growing was introduced into Spain during the maritime domination of the Phoenicians (1050 BC) but did not develop to a noteworthy extent until Roman rule (45 BC). .
- The Arabs brought their varieties with them to the south of Spain and influenced the spread of cultivation so much that the Spanish words for olive (aceituna), oil (aceite), and wild olive tree (acebuche) and the Portuguese words for olive (azeitona) and for olive oil (azeite), have Arabic roots.
- With the discovery of America (1492) olive farming spread beyond its Mediterranean confines.- by 1560 olive groves were being cultivated in Mexico, then later Peru, California, Chile & Argentina
- The International Olive Council, the world’s only international intergovernmental organisation in the field of olive oil and table olives, was set up in Madrid in 1959 under the auspices of the United Nations
- Invention of the centrifuge: 1864 and it was a “dairy centrifuge”