Category: Olive Tree

The Olive Tree History

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If you deconstruct Greece, you’ll be left with an olive tree, a grapevine and a boat. With this much, you can reconstruct her” – Odysseas Elytis, Nobel Prize poet

From North Africa, to the Middle East and across to Crete, the olive found its way to Greece, where it was widely cultivated. Known as “oleaeuropea”, its pollen has been found in Macedonia and fossilized leaves on the island of Santorini, dating back 37,000 years. This genus is an original element of the Greek flora.

ep7020661The mythology surrounding Athena’s victory over Poseidon over the naming rights of the ancient city-state of Athens came as a result of her gift, an olive tree. A small grove of olive trees is still flourishes on the Acropolis. Theophratus, the father of botany, wrote about this grove in the 4th Century BC. These trees could have originated in the Bronze Age. Indeed, olive trees can live for centuries,

 

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The Olive Tree was sacred and appeared on Athenian coins. It became a symbol of abundance, glory, wisdom, fertility, power, purity and peace and its branches made the wreath that crowned the winners of the ancient Olympic Games. This tradition was revived in the 1896 and 2004 Olympics held in Athens.

It is mentioned over 30 times in the Bible. It was an olive leaf the dove brought back to Noah to let him know the cataclysmic flood was over.

 

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Greek Extra Virgin

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In Greece, the olive tree never grows far from the sea. As the “olea europea” was first cultivated along the plains and hillsides of the coastline of Greece (actually the longest in the Mediterranean) it developed varietals with unique organoleptic qualities, found nowhere else in the world.

Of the many olive varietals grown in Greece over the centuries, two dominate the landscape: The tiny Koroneiki, considered the top oil producing olive and the large Kalamata, the best known table olive. Both are predominantly grown in the Peloponese.

Not unlike the old vines of France which have traditionally produced some of the best wines in the world, Greece’s olive oil output is reported to be 75% “extra virgin” as compared to 50% for Italy and 35% for Spain.

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