However, signs of olive oil can be traced as far back as 5,000 B.C. in Mediterranean countries, which adopted this glorious delicacy, Picture an ancient Roman or Greek scribe pouring over some precious parchment scroll when munching on olives. The Roman poet Horace consumed them every day and proclaimed them to be among the world’s best foods. (There were not a great deal of food options back then, but he was definitely onto something.)
They are cited frequently in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, and of course who can dismiss the freshwater branch that symbolizes peace. Hebrew cuisine appreciated the fruit in addition to the oil, which was considered sacred and had many uses, such as oil lamps, personal grooming and spiritual ceremonies.
The island of Crete made a significant influence in the olive industry several thousand years B.C. but has been dwarfed in contemporary times by bigger and more populated nations. It’s thought that Spanish missionaries in the 18th century brought the olive tree into U.S. land as they traveled up through Mexico, finding their way into the rich soils of California before it was settled and attained statehood. Still a significant business in Spain, they boast the greatest production with approximately 6 million tons each year. Italy and Greece place third and second with 2.5 to 3.5 million tons yearly. There is no question that the Mediterranean countries lead the pack, as 90 percent of olives are pressed to get their precious oil, while the remaining 10% left entire. In general, more olives are produced than grapes, globally.
No doubt about it, the U.S. utilizes a hefty share of the annual yield, not just the California harvest but imports too. We might not have brought them over on the Mayflower, but when the influx of immigrants started, we were quick to embrace them.
The olive tree is unusually hardy, and several have been identified throughout Mediterranean countries as more than a thousand years old and still producing. They prefer sun and hot weather and do not become thirsty as frequently as other agricultural crops, thus making them well-suited to Southern climates. Ancient Roman Emperors ordered them to be implanted in the Forum. Greeks appreciated their Kalamata variety, native to the area that bears its name. In South America, the nation of Argentina has proclaimed olive oil a”national food” and is attempting to enter the world market. They might not be a significant player yet, but they have set their sights on this popular export.
After harvesting, olives require healing since they can’t be eaten directly from the tree. (Do not even think about it.) A lengthy procedure is necessary, using lye, brine, salt or water, using a fermentation period to eliminate the strong sour flavor. For petroleum production, the first press is Extra Virgin, the maximum quality. The following press is straightforward olive oil. It is interesting to note that many cooking oils need industrial or chemical refining, while olive oil is an exception. (No wonder it is great for all of us.)
Coming late to the party, Japan’s island of Shodoshima, (or simply called”Olive Island”), creates a high quality olive oil that started in 1908. Clearly not a participant in the business, the Japanese folks seem content with their own unique crop and keep it to themselves.
So don’t limit your repertoire to simply eating them fishing them from martinis. Cast your net wider and include them in many different recipes. They add flavor, color and a bit of oomph to just about everything. But just as a cautionary note, if you do not buy the pitted ones, then please give your guests and family a”heads up!” Nobody wants a wonderful meal spoiled having an emergency visit to the dentist.