The olive was native to Asia Minor and spread from Iran, Syria and Palestine to the rest of the Mediterranean basin 6,000 years ago. It is among the oldest known cultivated trees in the world-being grown before the written language was invented. It was being grown on Crete by 3,000 BC and may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan Kingdom. The Phoenicians spread the olive to the Mediterranean shore of Africa and Southern Europe. Olives have been found in Egyptian tombs from 2,000 years BC. The olive culture was spread to the early Greeks then Romans. As the Romans extended their domain they brought the olive with them. 1,400 years ago the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, advised his followers to apply olive oil to their bodies, and himself used oil on his head. The use of oil is found in many religions and cultures. It has been used during special ceremonies as well as a general health measure. During baptism in the Christian church, holy oil, which is often olive oil, may be used for anointment. At the christmas mass, olive oil blessed by the bishop, “chrism”, is used in the ceremony. Like the grapes, the Christian missionaries brought the olive tree with them to California for food but also ceremonial use. Olive oil was used to anoint the early kings of the Greek and Jews. The Greek anointed winning athletes. Olive oil has been used to anoint the dead in many cultures.
The olive trees on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem are reputed to be over 2000 years old, still relative newcomers considering the long domestication of olive. We don’t know the exact variety of the trees on the Mount. Man has manipulated the olive tree for so many thousands of years that it is unclear what varieties came from which other varieties. Varieties in one country have been found to be identical to differently named varieties in another. Some research is now being done using gene mapping techniques to figure out the olive family tree. Shrub-like “feral” olives still exist in the Middle East and represent the original stock from which all other olives are descended.
In the past several hundred years the olive has spread to North and South America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia
THE OLIVE IN CALIFORNIA
As the Franciscans marched north, establishing missions in California, they also planted olive groves. Southern California saw the first olive trees. According to an account in Judith Taylor’s book. The Olive in California, a visitor to Mission San Fernando in 1842 saw the mission building in ruins but the orchard with a good crop of olives. The visitor remarked that the mission probably had the biggest olive trees in the state. Subsequently in the past 150 years, trees have been planted in several waves along with interest in olives and olive oil. Many of these older groves (80-150 years old) still exist in California. Most are in Northern California. In Southern California population and housing pressure have put the farmers out of business. There are many isolated trees or fragments of old groves but the land is too expensive for olive growing. Income per acre is 10 times lower than other crops like wine grapes and even those can’t compete with development potential.
The Mission Olive Preservation, Restoration, and EducationProject (MOPREP) aims to preserve the cultural link to the California Mission Olive tree for the purpose of general public education and enjoyment.
Athens is named for the Gooddess Athena who brought the olive to the Greeks as a gift. Zeus had promised to give Attica to the god or goddess who made the most useful invention. Athena’s gift of the olive, useful for light, heat, food, medicine and perfume was picked as a more peaceful invention than Poseidon’s horse – touted as a rapid and powerful instrument of war. Athena planted the original olive trees on a rocky hill that we know today as the Acropolis. The olive tree that grows there today is said to have come from the roots of the original tree.
OLIVE OIL: ORIGIN, SYMBOL AND LEGENDS
ORIGIN OF OLIVE OIL
Olive oil, the gold of Italy
Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an Italian excellence recognized throughout the world.
Among the foods that characterize the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is certainly at the top of the ranking. Precious and ancient, it is essential for a healthy and balanced diet.
Also known as EVO oil, it is the symbol of Mediterranean civilization.
Its history has developed over many centuries and involves different cultures and nations. Since its discovery, olive oil has always had an important value in the culture and economy of a country.
The earliest traces of olive cultivation date back to the 5th century BC in the Middle East, where the oldest mills have been found. At that time, the oil was used mainly as a medicine or skin care product
It then spread to Egypt, Crete, Attica and throughout the Mediterranean basin thanks to the Phoenicians, Greek and Carthaginians.
The Greeks, in particular, introduced it to Italy around 1000 BC. During the Roman Empire, the plant spread to all conquered territories. The Romans were great consumers of oil and perfected the cultivation, harvesting and processing of olives.
With the collapse of the Roman Empire, there was also a decline in olive cultivation that survived only in some areas.
FROM 1000 AD
Mainly used for religious rites during the Middle Ages, the oil was cultivated only by monks and priests at that time. From 1100 AD, oil production began to spread again and in 1300 became the main condiment, especially in southern countries and Italy.
To indicate the strong link between the plant and the geographical area, the ancients claimed that the Mediterranean region began and ended where it was possible to cultivate the olive tree.
During the Renaissance (1400), Italy became the largest producer and exporter of olive oil in the world. Thanks to the Italian immigrant who requested their import from Europe, even America began to learn about the olive oil trade in the 1800s.
During the economic boom of 1900, the oil – considered a poor food – was replaced by animal fat. Then re-evaluated in the course of the 21st century, it became one of the most valuable and exported products in the world again.
LEGENDS AND SYMBOLS ON OLIVE OIL
For the Greek it was the nectar of the gods. For the Egyptians the gift of the goddest Isis. For the Romans the symbol of purification. Numerous legends flourished around the precious olive tree in ancient times. According to one of them, Zeus father of the gods, had proclaimed a competition among his sons. Whoever offered Greece the most useful gift would have received Athens and the entire region of Attica. Among the many discarded proposals, Poseidon, god of the sea, offered a splended horse. Athena, goddest of wisdom, drew from the earth a new tree, the olive tree. Zeus decided that Athena deserved to win the race and the olive tree grew on the Acropolis. There is also one about the colour of the olive leaves, clear on one side and dark on the other.
Legend has it that Hercules, son of Zeus, descended into the underworld with his head surrounded by an olive branch. The part of the leaves that faced the forehead was soaked with sweet and faded, while those turned to the outside darkened due to the effect of rivers and flames. The Mediterranean peoples created legends and symbols inspired by the fruit and its nutritional properties.
Olive oil was considered a harbinger of divine light and intellectual power. Being indispensable for lighting lamps, it was associated with light and considered capable of making the path visible and clear. Because of purifying and calming properties, the oil was also considered a symbol of purification
In ancient Rome, the olive branch was the symbol of the goddest “Pax”. The ambassadors carried olive branches with woolen bandages to symbolically implore peace and protection.
IN THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION AS ASYMBOL OF PEACE
The olive tree has been considered a symbol of peace since ancient times. For example, in the famous episode of the dove that returns to the Ark of Noah holding an olive branch in its break, the dove announces the end of the flood and renewed peace with God.
In the Christian tradition, olive oil is used for the celebration of some sacraments such as Baptism, Confirmation, priestly and episcopal ordination, anointing of the sick (Viaticum) and in the coronation ritual of kings. According to legends, olive trees, along with cedar and cypresses, were used to built the Cross of Christ.
ADOPTING AN OLIVE TREE
The Italian extra virgin olive oil preserves the secret of the genuineness and delicacy of a pure and precious extra virgin olive oil. Have you ever thought of owning your own olive tree in the charming Italian countryside? By adopting an olive tree for you or as a gift for someone you love, you will have the chance to enjoy a part of authentic rural life in Italy. You will have the opportunity to share the pleasures of the countryside with updates on your tree, on the olive grove, food and the typical Italian lifestyle.
But Olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants are biologically active and may reduce your risk of chronic diseases. They also fight inflammation and help protect your blood cholesterol from oxidation – two benefits that may lower your risk of the heart diseases.
Olive Oil is Rich in Healthy Monounsaturated Fats
Olive oil is the natural oil extracted from olives, the fruit of the olive tree. About 14% of the oil is saturated fat, whereas 11% is polyunsaturated, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid. But the predominant fatty acid in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, making up 73% of the total oil content.
Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer.
Monounsaturated fats are also quite resistant to high heat, making extra virgin olive oil a healthy choice for cooking
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. This fatty acid is believed to have many beneficial effects and is a healthy choice for cooking.
OLIVE OIL CONTAINS LARGE AMOUNT OF ANTIOXIDANTS
Extra virgin olive oil is fairly nutritious. Apart from its beneficial fatty acids, it contains modest amount of vitamins K and K.
But olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants are biologically active and may reduce risk of chronic diseases. They also fight inflammation and help protect your blood cholesterol from oxidation – two benefits that may lower your risk of heart disease.
Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, some of which have powerful biological efffects.
OLIVE OIL HAS STRONG ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES
Chronic inflammation is thought to be a leading driver of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even obosity.
Extra-virgin olive oil can reduce inflammation, which may be one of the main reasons for its health benefits. The main anti-inflammatory effects are mediated by the antioxidants. Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug. Some scientists estimate that the oleocanthal in 3.4 tablespoons (50ml) of extra virgin olive oil has a similar effects as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen.
Research also suggest that oleic acid, the main fatty acid in olive oi, can reduce levels of important inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP). One study also showed that olive oil antioxidants can inhibit some genes and proteins that drive inflammation.
Olive oil contains nutrients that fight inflammation. These include oleic acid as well as the antioxidant oleocanthal.
OLIVE OIL MAY HELP PREVENT STROKES
Stroke is caused by a disturbance of blood flow to your brain, either due to a blood clot or bleeding. In developed nations, stroke is the second most common cause of death, right behind heart disease. The relationship between olive oil and stroke risk has been studies extensively.
A large review of studies in 841,000 people found that olive oil was the only source of monounsaturated fat associated with a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease. In another review in 140,000 participants, those who consumed olive oil were at a much lower risk of stroke than those who did not
Several large studies demonstrate that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.
OLIVE OIL IS PROTECTIVE AGAINST HEART DISEASE
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world. Observational studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries. This led to extensive research on the Mediterranean diet, which has now been shown to significantly reduce heart disease risk. Extra virgin olive oil is one of the of the key ingredients in this diet, protecting against heart disease in several ways.
It lowers inflammation, protects “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidation, improves the lining of your blood vessels and may help prevent excessive blood clotting. Interestingly, it has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and premature death.
In one study, olive oil reduced the need for blood pressure medication by 48%. Dozen – if not hundreds – of studies indicate that extra virgin olive oil has powerful benefits for your heart. If you have heart disease, a family history of heart disease or any other major risk factor, you may want to include plenty of extra virgin olive oil in your diet.
Extra virgin olive oil has numerous benefits for heart health . It lowers blood pressure, protects “bad” LDL cholesterol particles from oxidation and improves the function of blood vessels.
OLIVE OIL IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH WEIGHT GAIN AND OBESITY
Eating excessive amounts of fat causes weight gain. However, numerous studies have linked the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, with favorable effects on body weight. In a 30-month study in over 7,000 Spanish college students, consuming a lot of olive oil was not linked to increased weight. Additionally, one three-year study in 187 participants found that a diet rich in olive oil was linked to increased levels of antioxidants in the blood, as well as weight loss.
Consuming olive oil does not appear to increase the likelihood to weight gain. Moderate intake may even aid weight loss.
OLIVE OIL MAY FIGHT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative condition in the world. One of its key features is a build up of so-called beta-amyloid plaques inside your brain cells.
One study in mice showed that a substance in olive oil can help remove these plaques. Additionally, a human study indicated that a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil benefitted brain function. Keep in mind that more research is needed on the impact of olive oil on Alzheimer’s.
OLIVE OIL MAY REDUCE TYPE 2 DIABETES RISK
Olive oil appears to be highly protective against type 2 diabetes. Several studies have linked olive oil to beneficial effect on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
A randomized clinical trial in 418 healthy people recently confirmed the protective effects of olive oil. In this study, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by over 40%
Both observational studies and clinical trials suggest that olive oil, combined with a Mediterranean diet. Can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
THE ANTIOXIDANTS IN OLIVE OIL HAVE ANTI-CANCER PROPERTIES
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death in the world. People in Mediterranean countries have a lower risk of some cancers, and many researchers believe that olive oil may be the reason.
The antioxidants in olive oil can reduce oxidative damage due to free radicals, which is believed to be a leading driver of cancer. Many test-tube studies demonstrate that compounds in olive oil can fight cancer cells. More research is needed to determine whether olive oil in fact reduces your risk of cancer.
OLIVE OIL CAN HELP TREAT RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by deformed and painful joints. Though the exact cause is not well understood, it involves your immune system attacking normal cells by mistake. Olive oil supplements appear to improve inflammatory markers and reduce oxidative stress in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil seems particularly beneficial when combined with fish oil, a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In one study, olive and fish oil significantly improved handgrip strenght, joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Olive oil can help reduce joint pain and swelling from rheumatoid arthritis. The beneficial effects are greatly increased when combined with fish oil.
OLIVE OIL HAS ANTIBACTERIAL PROPERTIES
Olive oil contains many nutrients that can inhibit or kill harmful bacteria. One of these is helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that lives in your stomach and can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer.
Test-tube studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil fight eight strains of this bacterium, three of which are resistant to antibiotics. A study in humans suggested that 30 grams of extra virgin olive oil, taken daily, can eliminate helicobacter pylori infection in 10-40% of people in as little as two weeks.
Acid value: maximum: 6.6% (refined and pomace); 0.8% (extra virgin)
Food energy per 100 g (3.5oz): 3,700 kJ (880 kcal)
Peroxide value: 20 (virgin); 10 (refined and pomace)
Iodine value: 75-94 (virgin and refined); 75-92 (pomace)