The several uses of the olive tree, Olea europaea L., have long been recognized and celebrated by human civilization. Olive trees have been cultivated since prehistoric times in Asia Minor, and introduced with human migration and trade throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, into Africa, and eventually into New Zealand and North America. Thomas (1995) lists the beginning of olive cultivation as aproximately 3000 B.C. Olives appear in one of the first cookbooks ever discovered. As long ago as the 17th century B.C., the olive was considered sacred. In Greek mythology, Athena is said to have placed an olive tree on the Acropolis in order to win over the denizens of Attica, a favor for which the city became her namesake, Athens (Anonymous 1997). The champion at the Olympic Games was crowned with its leaves. "Offering an olive branch" is synonymous with peaceful intentions. The oil was burned in the lamps of sacred temples, as well as being the "eternal flame" of the Olympic games.
There are many references to the olive in the Bible. One of the most significant is in the tale of Noah and the Flood. The dove, sent out to search for a sign of land and life, returned with none other than an olive branch. Moses proclaimed that all men who worked to cultivate olives were exempt from military service (Grieve 1995). The olive is often referred to as a symbol of goodness, purity, and life. The miracle of Hanukkah was the olive oil which burned for eight nights when there was only enough to last for one day (Prero 1996). It is clear that the olive was an important part of life in the Mediterranean, as is the world over today.
Olive trees are graceful in appearance, with elegant lanceolate silv...
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... shallow. The "mission olive" of California derives its name from the Franciscan missionaries who originally planted them near San Diego around 1759 (Anonymous 1997). Olive production has also recently spread to New Zealand and Australia, but these continue to be incidental yields in comparison to the Mediterranean region.
Anonymous. 1997. Olives.
Grieve, M. 1995. Botanical.com; A Modern Herbal. Olive. Electric Newt.
Neff, R. and D. ResSeguie. 1995. Oil of Olives, An Ancient Wonder. Sundance Natural Foods.
Prero, Y. 1996. Chanukah and Olive Oil: Lessons in Devotion. YomTov, vol.II#22.
Thomas, J. Dec, 1995. Olive Fact Sheet.
Tous, J. and L. Ferguson. 1996. Mediterranean Fruits. From J. Janick (ed.) Progress in New Crops. ASHS Press, Arlington, VA. p.416-430.
U.S.D.A. 1995. An Economic Assessment of Olives. (Executive Summary).
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