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Gourmet Oil and Vinegar

Gourmet Oil and Vinegar

Olive Oil In History

Knowing About Olive Oil

Where did olive oil get its start? For thousands of years, the ancient Greeks and Romans told tales of their gods creating olives. Hercules was credited with the birth of olives; he struck the ground and caused an olive tree to sprout according to Roman mythology.

In Greece, olives were created by the goddess Athena and only virgins and chaste men could tend to the groves of olives. To lovers of fine food, olives had become a precious commodity.

Ancient trading ships kept track of their olive oil cargo as they weaved their way through many routes along the Mediterranean. Not only was olive oil used for food, it was also used as a beauty treatment and fuel for lamps. The early Egyptians used olive oil to ease the movement of the great stones used to build the gigantic pyramids.

Civilization was spread by the Roman Empire as was the cultivation of olive groves. The southern regions were built up around oil districts. The collapse of the Roman Empire brought the cultivation of olive groves into a bad light. Only a few places high in the hills of Tuscany could olives be found.

Around 1100 AD, olive groves once again began to flourish and Tuscany became a well known region of numerous olive tree groves. There were strict laws instilled during that time and some of these laws are still in place to this date. Approximately 300 years later, Italy became the largest producer of olive oil in the world. Wars of 1400 AD marked a critical time for oil production but olive oil soon rebounded and became the prime staple on the Renaissance tables of Europe. Because of taxation issues, the olive oil production did slow a bit in the late 1600’s but still maintained its growth due to civilization spreading around the globe. By the 1700’s, Francisca missionaries brought the first olive trees to the new world. In the 1800’s, due to Italian and Greek immigration, olive oil made its commercial entry in America. As an initial ethnic specialty, olive oil soon gained prominence with American chefs.

Now some two hundred years later, olive oil continues to gain in popularity. Already there are over 800 million olive trees around the world and more are being planted each day. In the mid-1970’s, several nutritional diets pointed to the Mediterranean diet and the lessening of health problems. Foods prepared in the Mediterranean region were not only delicious but were good for people. A typical diet is based on fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, grains and of course, olive oil.

The olive tree is an evergreen and does not bear fruit until it is almost eight years old. The average tree produces up to 44 pounds of olives per year and there are 70 varieties of olives grown throughout the world. Botanists claim that a normal lifespan for an olive tree can be up to 600 years although some claim that in the Mediterranean Basin, there are olive trees 1,000 years old. No wonder longevity is claimed when one incorporates olive oil in their diet.

olive oil history, olive oil facts

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